Allusions to Christianity and Post Neronian texts in the Satyricon’s Cena Trimalchionis, The Satyricon and Allegations of Christian Cannibalism

Another Guest Post by David Blocker

Allusions to Christianity and Post Neronian texts in the Satyricon’s Cena Trimalchionis, The Satyricon and Allegations of Christian Cannibalism

A Proposal that Titus Petronius Secundus, not Titus Petronius Arbiter, was the author of the Satyricon.

The attached table can be found here:
The Satyricon’s “Cena Trimalchionis”: Literary Allusions to the Gospels and Other Contemporaneous Texts.

Literary parallels between the Satyricon’s Tale of the Ephesian Matron and the New Testament were previously demonstrated[1].

Another chapter in the Satyricon, the Cena Trimalchionis[2], contains numerous allusions to the Old Testament, the canonical gospels, particularly the gospel attributed to John, letters attributed to Paul and James, the works of Flavius Josephus, material found in apocryphal Christian texts, and subjects appearing in the Natural History of Pliny the Elder, in letters of Pliny the Younger, in Martial’s Epigrams and in the histories of Suetonius and Tacitus.

The Cena Trimalchionis narrates the events that occurred during a banquet hosted by Trimalchio, a nouveaux-riche freedman.

The accompanying table compares extracts from the Cena Trimalchionis to passages from other texts.

Each column of the table contains an extended excerpt from the texts under consideration. The texts are arranged so that analogous passages will be side by side in parallel rows.

The first or left hand column of each row lists shared topics in the passages within the other cells of the row.  Parallel phrases in each row are either highlighted or emphasized with a distinctive font.

The cells in the second column contain the text of the Satyricon’s Cena Trimalchionis, the cells of the third column contain parallels extracted from the New Testament, and the cells in the fourth or right hand column contain texts extracted from other documents.

Where necessary, endnotes provide the complete passage, its context, source, and additional comments.

A cursory inspection of the Table suggests that the Cena Trimalchionis’ most significant New Testament allusions are to the Gospel of John.  This also seems to be the case for the New Testament allusions found in the Tale of the Ephesian Matron[3].

The relationship of the Satyricon to the Gospel of John requires further investigation since the current scholarly consensus assumes that the Satyricon was written prior to the Gospel of John.

The author of the Satyricon also alludes to narratives that have their only surviving parallels in the Toledoth Jesu[4].  This suggests that the antiquity of the Toledoth Jesu and/or its sources is much greater than commonly acknowledged.

The last three rows of the Table are from a fragmentary, incompletely preserved, portion of the Satyricon.  In this section of the text, Eumolpus left a will requiring that his beneficiaries eat his corpse if they wish to inherit his estate[5].

This fragment of the text contains a reference to Josephus’ War of the Jews and a possible allusion to the Gospel of John.  This incomplete portion of the Satyricon might have been part of an episode parodying the symbolic cannibalism of the Christian Eucharist.

As evidenced by the references to gossip, events and people that also appears in the writings of the two Plinys, Martial, Suetonius and Tacitus, the author of the Satyricon seems to have been a Roman addressing other members of an elite circle of upper class Romans.

The Satyricon makes oblique references to Christianity’s rites and literature.  Allusions to Christianity in the Satyricon’s Tale of the Ephesian Matron1 were used to mock and parody Christian beliefs and rituals.  The use of allusions to Christianity in the Satyricon’s Cena Trimalchionis, however, seems like a virtuoso display where the author is showing off his store of information about Christianity.  The author of the Satyricon cites not only the texts adopted by orthodox Christianity, but texts written by rivals, critics and detractors of what would become orthodox Christianity.  The allusions to Christianity in the Cena Trimalchionis are presented as a series of individual display pieces rather than as connected elements of a narrative.  Only when the story turns to Eumolpus’ will, do the allusions to symbolic Christian and alleged Judean cannibalism contribute to a greater narrative framework about bilking legacy hunters.

I leave further analysis and interpretation of the Table to the reader.  Hopefully, the Table will inspire further scholarship leading to the discovery of additional relationships between the Satyricon and contemporary texts and to the elucidation of the significance of these relationships.

The Satyricon alludes to events and passages in texts that were written after the reign of Nero[6].

The authorship of the Satyricon is usually assigned to Titus Petronius Arbiter[7], one of Emperor Nero’s courtiers.  The Satyricon’s post 66 CE allusions make it impossible for Titus Petronius Arbiter to have been its author.  Petronius Arbiter committed suicide circa 66 CE, before many of the texts referred to by the Satyricon were written.

Assuming that the manuscript attributions of authorship to “Titus Petronius” are correct, a better candidate for authorship of the Satyricon is Titus Petronius Secundus[8] (40–97 CE).

Titus Petronius Secundus was governor of the province of Egypt from c. 92 to c. 93 CE.  This posting would have exposed him to the Jewish community of Alexandria, refugees from the first Jewish Revolt, and members of the Christian sect.  From 94 to 96 CE, he was a prefect of Emperor Domitian’s Praetorian Guard.  As a member of the Imperial household, Petronius Secundus would have had the opportunity to read Martial’s verses and meet Josephus, Suetonius, Tacitus and Pliny the Younger, and be familiar with events, people and places they wrote about.

Titus Petronius Secundus left epigraphic evidence that he was bilingual in Latin and Greek, as was the author of the Satyricon[9], and had pretentions of being a poet.  Samples of poetry are scattered throughout the Satyricon.

When Titus Petronius Secundus was governor of Egypt, he visited the statue of Memnon and had a Latin statement commemorating his visit and a Greek verse that he had composed, inscribed on the statue’s leg[10].

I propose based on the foregoing statements, that first the Satyricon was written after the reign of Nero, and second, that Titus Petronius Secundus is a better (though not the only) candidate than Titus Petronius Arbiter for the authorship of the Satyricon[11].

The Satyricon also refers to anti-Christian allegations recorded in the Sefer Toledoth Jesu[12], in Celsus’ The True Word (Ἀληθὴς λόγος/Alēthēs logos) and in the refutations written by Christian apologists of the 2nd through 4th centuries.  Since these texts were composed after the death of Petronius Secundus, the allegations must already have been in circulation during his lifetime—if he is the author of the Satyricon.

The Satyricon alludes to events, persons and places mentioned in Gaius Suetonius Tranquillus’ The Twelve Caesars[13] which was written during the reign of Hadrian, and to works of Tacitus and Pliny the Younger which were all distributed after the death of Titus Petronius Secundus.  The texts were published after the death of Petronius Secundus, but referred to events that occurred during the lifetime of Petronius Secundus.  Petronius Secundus and Suetonius had overlapping life times, and they both lived in Rome where they would have been privy to the same anecdotes and the same libraries.

The Satyricon, therefore, could not have been written by Titus Petronius Arbiter, since it contains references to material written after his death.  Titus Petronius Secundus is a better candidate to be the Petronius who allegedly authored the Satyricon.

An alternate hypothesis about the authorship of the Satyricon was proposed by Stephan Ratti.  He proposed that it was written during the second decade of the 2nd century CE by a freedman in Pliny the Younger’s household who adopted the pseudonym “Petronius”11.

I place more credence on the manuscript attributions of authorship to Titus Petronius, while Stephan Ratti bases his hypothesis on the high frequency of topics that are shared by the Satyricon and Pliny’s letters.

If the Satyricon was indeed written during the last decade of the first century CE by Titus Petronius Secundus, the parody of Christian traditions found in the Tale of the Ephesian Matron, and the allusions to Christianity found in the Cena Trimalchionis and in the fragmentary cannibal passages of the Satyricon are the earliest surviving non-Christian literary references to Christianity that are not tainted with the suspicion of being Christian forgery[14].  Allusions to the Gospel attributed to John in a text dated to the last decade of the 1st century CE, would require rethinking not only the dating of the Gospel attributed to John, but the Synoptic problem as well.

David Blocker, 2016.12.28.


[1] or*/

See also endnote 3

[2]  The Cena Trimalchionis is an incident in the Satyricon, a long Latin novel of which only fragments survive.  In this episode the narrator, Encolpius, and his companions are invited to a dinner given by Trimalchio, a nouveux riche freedman.



[4] Incidents found in both the Toledoth Jesu and the Satyricon include playing “catch the ball by a pool of water”, “barking entryway guardians”, “an event seen by two witnesses”, and “a betrayal preceded by an act of sodomy”.

Most mainstream scholars date the Toledoth Jesu to the 6th century or later, though a few have placed it as early as the 2nd or 3rd century., recovered 2016/11/30.

[5] “All those who come into money under my will, except my own children, will get what I have left them on one condition, that they cut my body in pieces and eat it up in sight of the crowd.” Satyricon 141.

[6] Nero, died: June 9, 68 AD.

Please see the accompanying Table for specific examples of texts written after 66 CE.

These include references to the New Testament, and passages from the works of Martial, Josephus, Suetonius, Tacitus, and the two Plinys (the Elder and Younger).

[7] (recovered 10/10/2016).


[9] See J. R. Morgan, “Petronius and Greek Literature”, in Prag, Jonathan and Ian Repath (eds). Petronius: A Handbook (Blackwell Publishing, 2009, Chapter 2).

[10] Titus Petronius Secundus’ inscription on the statue of Memnon has survived until modern times.  In antiquity the statue was famous for making a sound when warmed by the rising sun.

A French translation of the Greek and Latin inscription is given below:

« Quand l’empereur Domitien César Auguste Germanicus exerçait son seizième consulat, Titus Petronius Secundus, préfet d’Egypte, entendit Memnon, à la première heure, la veille des ides de mars, et l’honora des vers grecs écrits ci-dessous : « Tu as émis un son, Memnon, car une partie de toi-même est assise en ce lieu, quand le fils de Latone te frappait de ses rayons brûlants. » Par les soins de Titus Attius Musa, préfet de la deuxième cohorte des Thébains.*» (Date : le 14 mars 92 p.C.)

Source : ”Les inscriptions grecques et latines du colosse de Memnon” par André et Etienne Bernard – I.F.A.O. – 1960.

* “When the Emperor Domitian Caesar Augustus Germanicus exercised his sixteenth consulship, Titus Petronius Secundus, prefect of Egypt, heard Memnon, at the first hour, on the eve of the ides of March, and honored him with the Greek verses written below: ‘You made a sound, Memnon, because a part of you is sitting here, when Latona’s son struck you with his burning rays.’ “Under the supervision of Titus Attius Musa, prefect of the second cohort of Thebans.” (Latona/Leto: A Greek goddess, the mother, by Zeus, of Apollo (the god of the sun) and Artemis.)

[11] Stephane Ratti proposed that the Satyricon was written late in the reign of Trajan, after 107–111 CE, by a freedman of Pliny the Younger, most likely Pliny’s reader Encolpius.  Ratti suggests that Encolpius used “Titus Petronius” as his pseudonym.

Stéphane Ratti, “Relire le Satyricon. Pline le Jeune et les chrétiens, cibles du roman secret d’un affranchi cultivé”, Anabases, v. 22, 2015, p. 99–145.

Stéphane Ratti and I agree that Petronius Arbiter was not the author of the Satyricon.  I propose that the Satyricon was written by Titus Petronius Secundus (c. 40–97) during the reign of Domitian.  Titus Petronius Secundus would have to have known Pliny the Younger and have completed the Satyricon before he (Petronius Secundus) was murdered in 97 CE.

M. Ratti places the Satyricon at a later date, during the reign of Trajan, and proposes that its author was Encolpius, Pliny the Younger’s reader (literary secretary). Encolpius appears to have died while in Pliny’s service (Letters 8.1 and 8.19, Letters of Pliny the Younger) at an unknown, indeterminate date.

[12] The dating of the Sefer Toldoth Jesu, a deprecatory biography of Jesus, is a contentious subject.  While there is no scholarly consensus, no established scholar has dated it earlier than the second century.  See (recovered 10/10/2016) for a group sourced discussion of the composition and dating of the Toldoth Jesu.

[13] Gaius Suetonius Tranquillus (c. 69–after 122 CE) (recovered 10/10/2016)

[14] Josephus’ Antiquities of the Jews, which contains the Testimonium Flavianum (Antiquities of the Jews 18.3.3, was written circa 93/94 CE (  The Testimonium Flavianum is a laudatory statement about Jesus.

There is controversy about whether or not the Testimonium Flavianum is a forgery (See Feldman, Louis H., Josephus and Modern Scholarship, Berlin; New York: W. de Gruyter, 1984, for arguments concerning the authenticity of the Testimonium Flavianum).

Pliny the Younger’s correspondence with Trajan (Pliny, Letters 10.96–97) (c. 112 CE) concerns whether or not Christians should be treated as criminals.  Pliny the Younger’s letter imply that he had heard rumors of misdeeds occurring at Christian feasts.  According to my (Blocker’s) hypothesis Pliny’s letters to Trajan were written over a decade after the Satyricon had been written.

According to S. Ratti’s hypothesis (See endnote 11 ) the Satyricon and Pliny’s correspondence with Trajan were approximately concurrent.

A recent essay has questioned the authenticity of Pliny’s Letter to Trajan (Enrico Tuccinardi, “An Application of a Profile-Based Method for Authorship Verification: Investigating the Authenticity of Pliny the Younger’s Letter to Trajan Concerning the Christians,” Digital Scholarship in the Humanities, published online: 14 February 2016.


The Relationship Between the Satyricon’s “Tale of the Ephesian Widow” and Texts Associated with Early Christianity.

A Guest Post by David Blocker


The Relationship Between the Satyricon’s “Tale of the Ephesian Widow” and Texts Associated with Early Christianity.

Also a Few Thoughts Concerning the Authorship of the Satyricon

The attached table can be found here:

Table 1 – Correlations between Petronius’ Tale of the Widow of Ephesus, The Canonical and Non Canonical Gospels, and Other Stories

The Satyricon ([1]) is an incompletely preserved Latin picaresque novel about the misadventures of its dissipated and unscrupulous narrator, Encolpius, and the dissolute characters he encountered during his travels.  The story takes place in southern Italia, during the mid to late 1st century CE.

The date of composition of the Satyricon is unknown.  The earliest known manuscripts of the Satyricon date to the 9th century.  The Satyricon was rediscovered, copied and printed during the Renaissance.  The manuscript tradition attributes the work to an otherwise unidentified ”Titus Petronius”.

One of the most famous narrative interludes in the Satyricon is the ”Tale of the Ephesian Widow”.  The third rate poet Eumpolis told the tale to entertain the passengers and crew of a ship sailing around the southern end of the Italian peninsula.  The ”Tale of the Ephesian Matron” is a story within a story.

Eumpolis presented the story as a recollection of an actual event.

The story was about a recently widowed woman who was celebrated for her great virtue.  Accompanied by a servant, she sequestered herself in her husband’s tomb and refused to take nourishment or leave the corpse’s side.  The mourning widow was noticed by a nearby soldier, who was guarding the corpses of several crucified thieves.  The soldier seduced the grieving widow.  While the soldier was dallying with the widow, one of the crucified corpses was stolen and given proper burial.  The soldier decided to kill himself rather than suffer punishment for his dereliction of duty.  The widow, not wanting to lose her new found lover, offered to substitute her husband’s corpse for the stolen body.  The next day, the townspeople wondered how the dead husband managed to climb up on the cross in place of the dead thief.

Eumpolis’ ”Tale of the Ephesian Matron” was an elaboration of Plautus’ well known story of the ”Widow and the Soldier” ([2]), which in turn may have been based on an earlier Greek fable ([3]).  An alert and erudite Roman reader would have recognized that Eumpolis was a plagiarizer.  Eumpolis took a well-known moralizing fable, repackaged it as a sardonic shaggy dog story ([4]), and then passed it off as his recollection of an actual event.  The author of ”The Satyricon” portrayed Eumpolis as an unreliable narrator, whose audience accepted the story as a true and accurate account of actual events because they lacked the refinement to recognize the story’s true origin.

What is somewhat less obvious is that ”The Tale of the Ephesian Widow” is both a parody of the Christian biography of Jesus and a critique that questions the veracity of the Christian foundation myth by offering mundane alternative explanations for the supernatural events of the Christian myths.

The accompanying five column table ”Table 1 – Correlations between Petronius’ Tale of the Widow of Ephesus, The Canonical and Non Canonical Gospels, and Other Stories” compares ”The Tale of the Ephesian Widow” to its source ”The Widow and the Soldier”, and to canonical and non-canonical stories about Jesus.

The stories are arranged in columns.  The cells in the first column on the left contain the commentary on the content of each row.  Each row of the table contains passages from the texts that display literary parallels.  The endnotes below the table contain additional explanations about the text in each cell.

Inspection of the Table shows that the Satyricon alludes to the New Testament accounts about the anointing of Jesus, the Last Supper, the crucifixion of Jesus and the disappearance of his corpse.  The Gospel of John seems to be the Gospel with the most correlations with the Satyricon, followed by the Gospel of Luke.

The ”Tale of the Ephesian Widow” also has parallels with Flavius Josephus’ story about Decius Mundus’ seduction of Paulina ([5]), and the Toledoth Yeschu‘s account of Miriam’s rape by ben Pandera ([6]).  Flavius Josephus’ story of Paulina and Mundus occurs in close proximity to the Testimonium Flavianum, the controversial passage about Jesus in the 18th book of Flavius Josephus’ ”Antiquities of the Jews” ([7]).  Some might consider the story about Decius Mundus’ attempt to impregnate Paulina by pretending to be a god, to be a parody of Luke’s Annunciation, the story of how Mary was impregnated by a messenger (Greek: angel) who claimed to be god’s representative.  The Toledoth Yeshu is a Jewish biography of Jesus that attempts to demythologize the stories in the canonical gospels ([8]).

The correlations between ”The Tale of the Ephesian Widow” are not mere coincidences.

First, there are too many of them and the order of their appearance, starting with a description of the woman’s character, that parallels the description of Mary’s (Miriam’s) character at the beginning of the Protevangelion of James and the Toledoth Yeshu, and culminating in the uplifting of a corpse, tracks the stories about Jesus too closely to be accidental.

Second, ”The Tale of the Ephesian Widow” used Plautus’ earlier story about ”The Widow and the Soldier” as its model.  Many passages in ”The Tale of the Ephesian Widow are paraphrases of passages from Plautus’ story occurring in the same sequence as they do in Plautus.  However, The Tale of the Ephesian Widow also contains many narrative embellishments that are not in Plautus.  In the Table these appear in a row in which there is text in the cell in ”The Tale of the Ephesian Widow” column, but an empty cell in ”The Widow and the Solider” column.

Almost all of these embellishments have a correlate in a narrative about the life of Jesus.  Wherever the author of ”The Tale of the Ephesian Widow” added to his exemplar, he did so in order to make an allusion to a particular narrative element in a story about Jesus.  This distinctive pattern of additions to Plautus’ story shows that the ”The Tale of the Ephesian Widow’s” references to Jesus were deliberate.

Finally, for whatever it is worth, my observation that the Satyricon contains references to Christianity is not idiosyncratic.  A review of the academic literature shows that this observation has been made independently at several different times in the past ([9]).

The author of the Satyricon apparently had access to several different texts or traditions about Jesus.  ”The Tale of the Ephesian Widow” alludes to episodes found in the canonical gospels, the apocryphal gospels, Jewish texts including the Torah and the Toldoth Yeshu, and possibly the works of Flavius Josephus.  How he was able to access these texts or traditions, and the actual form they were in when he found them is the subject for future research.  What is apparent is that he used laudatory, mythopoeic, and disparaging sources which he combined to create a multilayered story with parodic allusions to the hagiographic biography of Jesus.

The composition of ”The Tale of the Ephesian Widow” is multilayered.  On the surface it is a reminiscence told by a character in a picaresque novel.  One the next level it is a story stolen from an author who translated and versified Greek fables (2).  Finally it is a story that either parodies or de-mythologizes the events in the last chapters of the canonical Christian gospels, from the anointing of Jesus, through the last supper, crucifixion and resurrection.  ”The Tale of the Ephesian Widow” also calls the steadfastness of the Virgin Mary into account by insinuating that even the most virtuous appearing women can be easily seduced by offering them wine and good food.  By alluding to Flavius Josephus’ account of Paulina and Mundus, ”The Tale of the Ephesian Widow” implied that Mary had not been miraculously impregnated by an angel but rather had been seduced by a man who pretended to be a messenger from god.  Adding yet another layer of complexity, Josephus’ account of Paulina and Mundus strongly resembles the rabbinical accounts of Miriam’s rape at the hands of a soldier named ben Pandera ([10]).

To the casual or unsophisticated reader ”The Tale of the Ephesian Widow” is a salacious story about the pliability and corruptibility of women and how past virtuous behavior is not a reliable indicator of a woman’s future behavior.  A more sophisticated reader will see that the story is a parodic commentary on the final days of Jesus that correlates the mythologized sequence of events that led up to his resurrection, with a sordid tale replete with implied necrophilia, eating disorders, obsessive behaviors, seduction and purchase of sexual favors with food, possible group sex, dereliction of duty, body snatching and corpse abuse.

Finally ”The Tale of the Ephesian Widow” makes a literary allusion that suggests rather than being a miraculous child of god, Jesus was the illegitimate child of rape.

In short the Satyricon‘s author, hid a devastating attack on the validity of the Christian foundations legend inside a mildly off color morality tale.

In light of the above the dating of the Satyricon needs to be reconsidered.

It is the general scholarly consensus that the canonical gospels were not written until after the end of the First Jewish Revolt.  Flavius Josephus completed Antiquities of the Jews during the last decade of the 1st century CE (7).

The text of the Satyricon refers to an actor who was active during the reign of Caligula ([11]) and to a musician who received an award from Nero ([12]).

Therefore, the Satyricon was written at a time when popular entertainers from Nero’s era were still remembered, and after the Christian Gospels become accessible to a Roman author.

This places the authorship of the Satyricon after Nero’s reign ([13]), most likely during the period of the Flavian dynasty ([14]), when there would still have been first hand memories of performers from the time of Nero.  Petronius Arbiter ([15]), who is traditionally assigned authorship of the Satyricon, died in 66CE.  It is therefore highly unlikely that Petronius Arbiter was the author of the Satyricon.

The author of this essay is not alone in proposing that the Satyricon was written after the reign of Nero.  Similar proposals have been made in the French literature ([16]).

In a subsequent essay, I will show that the Satyricon contains additional references to the Christianity, as well as allusions to more texts written during the last decade of the 1st century CE.  In that essay, I will offer a hypothesis about the dating and authorship of the Satyricon and how this bears upon the Synoptic Problem.


David Blocker, 2014/04/23

(I wish to thank Roger Viklund for his skillful editing, and for bringing Xenophon’s Ephesian Tale to my attention.)


[1] Many translations and editions of the Satyricon are available on line and in well stocked book stores.  Many essays about the text, the complex manuscript history of the Satyricon, and the extensive controversies surrounding the work are available at university libraries and on the many web pages devoted to the Satyricon.  The literature on the Satyricon is voluminous, contentious and dates back hundreds of years.  Caveat Lector.

[2] The Widow and the Soldier / The Fables of Phædrus, Literally translated into English prose. Translator: H. T. Riley, C. Smart, 1887, Fable XIV – The Widow and the Soldier, p 443. Phaedrus (c. 15 BC – c. AD 50) was a Roman fabulist.  Phaedrus is known for rewriting Greek fables into Latin verse.

[3] The literary trope of lovers meeting in a tomb has a long history.  Plautus’ ”Widow and the Soldier”, the Satyricon‘s ”Tale of the Ephesian Matron”, the 2nd century CE ”Ephesian Tale of Anthia and Habrocomes” by Xenophon of Ephesus, ”The Apocryphal Acts of John the Apostle” traditionally ascribed to Leucius Charinus, and of course William Shakespeare’s ”Romeo and Juliet” all contain variations of the ”lovers in a tomb” theme.  John 20: 11-18, in which Mary encountered the post mortem Jesus outside his tomb, probably should be included in this story genre.

[4] A shaggy dog story is an extremely long-winded anecdote characterized by extensive narration of typically irrelevant incidents and terminated by an anticlimax or pointless punchline.  In the case of the ”Ephesian Widow”, the focus of the narrative is suddenly shifted from the seduction of the virtuous widow to the town’s people’s bewilderment at the undignified reappearance of her late husband’s corpse.

[5] Flavius Josephus, Antiquities of the Jews 18.4 (18.066 et seq.)

[6] The Toledoth Yeshu is a biography of Jesus that was circulated among Jewish communities.  Book that contain some historical information about and transcripts of various manuscript versions of the Toledoth Yeshu are listed below.

Toledot Yeshu: The Life Story of Jesus, 2 vols., Tübingen, Mohr Siebeck, 2014.

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

Hugh Schonfeild, According to the Hebrews: A New Translation of the Jewish Life of Jesus (the Toldoth Jeshu), with an Inquiry Into the Nature of Its Sources and Special Relationship to the Lost Gospel According to the Hebrews, Duckworth, London, 1937. (This book contains a censored version of the Toledoth Yeshu, the account of Miriam’s rape was not included in the translated text of the Toledoth Yeshu.  The book does contain a useful comparison of the Toledoth Yeshu to other texts.)

Samuel Krauss; Das Leben Yeshu nach Judischen Quellen; S.Calvary, Berlin, 1903.

[7] Antiquities of the Jews (Greek: Ἰουδαϊκὴ ἀρχαιολογία, Ioudaikē archaiologia; Latin: Antiquitates Judaicae), is a 20-volume historiographical work composed by the Judean historian Flavius Josephus in the 13th year of the reign of the Roman emperor Flavius Domitian, c. AD 93 or 94.

From: , retrieved 2016/04/16.

[8] The earliest dates of the Toledoth Yeschu which have some scholarly backing lie between the 3rd to 5th century CE.  However, the accompanying Table shows that narrative units of the Toledoth Yeschu have parallels with the Satyricon‘s ”Tale of the Ephesian Widow”.  The Satyricon is generally considered to date to the mid to late 1st century CE.

[9] Cabaniss, Allan; ”A Footnote to the Petronian Question”, CPh 49, 1954; pp. 98-102.

”The Satyricon and the Christian Oral Tradition,” Greek, Roman & Byzantine Studies, Vol. 3, 1960, pp. 36-9.

“The Matron of Ephesus Again: An Analysis,” Univ. of Mississippi Studies in English 3; (1962) 75-77. [Also in Liturgy and Literature: Selected Essays (Alabama, 1970).]

The Satyricon and the NT, A Satire. Liturgy and Literature, Selected Essays, University of Alabama Press, 1970, p. 72-96.

Harris, William (January 20, 1926 – February 22, 2009), Professor of Classics at Middlebury College, Middlebury, VT.

”There is no space to go into this here, but it seems clear that someone who misunderstood Christianity totally, heard of Christ’s entombment and crucifixion, and turned it into an odd form of comedy. This needs further study and discussion….”

Posted at

”We should look at this from the perspective of historical evidence. If the Petronius storyline may be considered even as indirect evidence that there was an awareness, howsoever vague and transposed, of Christ’s final state, it does establish the fact that the crucifixion of Christ was becoming known in secular circles throughout the West. And it further helps document a date for Petronius (who has never been properly dated) as near the end of the first century A.D.  I find this matter so strange and unparalleled by anything else we have from the early years of the first millennium, that I hesitate to propose the matter in documentable academic terms, and offer this view primarily as a suggestion for consideration. On the other hand the segments of the argument as I have outlined them seem to fit together ineluctably. It is essentially the interpretation of their meaning in a social and historical sense which gives me pause.”

Posted at  Retrieved 2016/4/21.

Ramelli, Ilaria; The Ancient Novels and the New Testament: Possible Contacts; Ancient Narrative, Volume 5, Groningen; 2007; pp 41-68.

[10] The Greek Philosopher Celsus, who wrote during the 2nd century CE was also aware of the non-miraculous, somewhat sordid Jewish account of Jesus’ conception and birth.

”Let us return, however, to the words put into the mouth of the Jew, where ‘the mother of Jesus’ is described as having been ‘turned out by the carpenter who was betrothed to her, as she had been convicted of adultery and had a child by a certain soldier named Panthera’.” In Contra Celsum by Origen, Henry Chadwick, translator; Cambridge University Press: 1980;  p. 32.

[11] Appeles, a tragic actor during the reign of Caligula (d.41 C.E.).  Petronius, The Satyricon and Seneca, The Apocolocyntosis; J. P. Sullivan, Translator; Penguin Books; 1965; footnote 50, p. 191.

[12] Menecrates, a lyre player honored by Nero (Suetonius, Nero, c. 30).  Petronius, The Satyricon and Seneca, The Apocolocyntosis; J. P. Sullivan, Translator; Penguin Books; 1965; footnote 70, p. 192.

[13] Nero was Roman Emperor from 54 to 68CE.

[14] The Flavian dynasty – 69CE to 96CE, encompassed the reigns of Vespasian (69–79), and his two sons Titus (79–81) and Domitian (81–96).


[16] ”Les interrogations subsistent quant à la période de rédaction du Satyricon. Il existe de nombreux parallèles entre le texte de Pétrone et des auteurs tels Martial, Tacite et Pline le Jeune, qui rédigent tous leurs œuvres sous les Flaviens ou au début de la dynastie des Antonins. Or Martial cite généralement ses modèles et ne mentionne à aucune reprise Pétrone et le Satyricon. Il paraît aussi difficile de croire que des écrivains comme Tacite ou Pline aient copié des passages d’un récit aussi salace. Il est par conséquent plus que probable que c’est le Satyricon qui parodie ces divers auteurs et non l’inverse. En revanche, en 120, c’est Juvenal qui pastiche à son tour le Satyricon (au livre 3 de ses Satires), ce qu’il ne fait pas dans les deux premiers livres parus en 116. Cela donne comme période de rédaction probable les années allant de 116 à 120.  Pour Nicole Fick cependant, le roman a été écrit entre la fin du règne de Néron (en 68) et le début du règne de Domitien (vers 90) … ”  Extracted from, 2016-02-12.

(”There are many parallels between the text of Petronius and authors like Martial, Tacitus and Pliny the Younger, who wrote all their works under the Flavian or early Antonine dynasties.  However, Martial generally quoted his sources and yet did not mention using Petronius and the Satyricon. It also seems difficult to believe that writers like Tacitus and Pliny had copied passages from this salacious story.  It is therefore likely that it is the Satyricon that parodies the various authors and not the reverse. However, in 120, it was Juvenal, who in his turn made a pastiche of the Satyricon (in Book 3 of his ”Satires”), yet he did not do in his first two books published in 116. This gives probable drafting (of the Satyricon) during the period from 116 to 120.  According to Nicole Fick however, the novel was written between the end of the reign of Nero (in 68) and the beginning of the reign of Domitian (to 90) … ”  Machine assisted translation from French to English.)

It is the opinion of the author of this essay that the Satyricon was written towards the end of Domitian’s reign (c. 95-96 CE).  This will be discussed in greater detail in a future essay.

A Proposed Literary Parallel between Livy’s History of the Bacchanalian Conspiracy and the Stories about Rabble-Rousers and Religious Charlatans in the works of Flavius Josephus

Another Guest Post by David Blocker

A Proposed Literary Parallel between Livy’s History of the Bacchanalian Conspiracy and the Stories about Rabble-Rousers and Religious Charlatans in the works of Flavius Josephus

 The attached table can be found here:
Livy Bacchanalia vs Josephus Rabble Rousers and TF

A previous essay[1] demonstrated literary parallels linking the descriptions of Judean rabble-rousers and charlatans[2] in the works attributed to Flavius Josephus. The narratives could be subdivided into three groups attesting to the multiple authorship of the works of Flavius Josephus. The Testimonium Flavianum[3] was shown to be a poorly executed imitation of the other narratives about rabble-rousers and charlatans, indicating the Testimonium Flavianum had not been written by the original author(s) of Antiquities of the Jews.

Livy[4] wrote a popular History of Rome[5] during the reign of Caesar Augustus. In it, he gave a detailed account of the Bacchanalian Conspiracy[6].

The Bacchanalian Conspiracy was a foreign ecstatic cult that a disreputable Greek had introduced into Italy. The cult gained many followers among women and marginalized social groups. The cult’s secret initiation rites were unseemly and immoral. Cult members performed criminal acts in order to amass funds and influence. An informer brought the cult to the attention of the Roman authorities. In 186 BCE, the Roman Senate outlawed the cult, sought out and punished its followers, and placed harsh controls on its scattered survivors.

Livy composed his History[7] in Latin between 25 BCE and 9 CE. War of the Jews and Antiquities of the Jews were written in Greek after 70 CE and 90 CE respectively.

The stories about Rabble-rousers and charlatans in War of the Jews and Antiquities of the Jews, described the foundation, spread, and subsequent discovery and suppression of popular movements led by Judean rabble rousers and charlatans. This is the same narrative sequence used by Livy to describe the Bacchanalian conspiracy.

The accompanying table[8] compares Livy’s account of the Bacchanalian conspiracy to the accounts of Judean rabble-rousers found in War of the Jews, to a representative account taken from Antiquities of the Jews, and to the Testimonium Flavianum[9].

Each column of the table contains a selected text. The texts have been broken down into smaller blocks which contain shared concepts or words with similar meanings. These blocks of text were placed in individual cells and arranged into parallel rows.

The first column of the table lists the common or parallel narrative elements that are contained in each row of the table.

The table demonstrates the parallels between the accounts of Livy’s Bacchanalian conspirators, Josephus’ Rabble-Rousers and, to a lesser extent the Testimonium Flavianum. They have a common narrative progression; cells containing words with similar meanings are easily arranged into sequential rows. Analogous words or phrases that occur in the same row of the table have been color coded.

The table demonstrates the Rabble-rouser narratives in War of the Jews appear to have a good match with Livy’s account, both in terms of the number of matching rows, and the amount of color coded words and phrases in each text containing cell. According to H. St. John Thackeray, the rabble-rouser accounts in War of the Jews are in the chapters (“Books”) that were written by the first of Josephus’ Greek speaking co-authors, the one Thackeray called the “Attic Stylist”[10]. Josephus’ second literary assistant, whom Thackeray called the “Thucydian Hack”, co-authored the final books of Antiquities of the Jews.

The passages about Judean Rabble-rousers in Antiquities of the Jews also correlate well with Livy’s text. There are only a few empty or unmatched cells and there are still numerous color matches between Livy and Antiquities of the Jews. It is probable that Josephus’ second literary assistant understood and carefully followed the compositional methods used by Josephus’ first assistant, when making his contribution to Antiquities of the Jews.

The literary allusion to Livy’s Latin text in Josephus’ Greek texts indicates that Josephus’ first literary assistant, and possibly the second, were literate in both Latin and Greek. The first assistant was able to retrieve a section from one of the classics of Latin literature, and paraphrase it in Greek, and place the results in War of the Jews. Knowledge of Latin would have been helpful but not essential for the second assistant to follow the literary example set by the first assistant.

The descriptions of Judean Rabble rousers in Josephus’ Histories of the Jews make a literary allusion to the Bacchanalian Conspiracy in Book 6 of Livy’s History of Rome. The literary allusions in Josephus’ Histories would have alerted the well-read bilingual Roman to the cultic nature of the Judean factions and the danger they posed to the established social order. Josephus’ literary assistants had hinted the cults of the rebellious Judean bands might spread to the lower orders of Roman society. Their literary hints would be apparent only to well-read Roman elites[11].

In comparison to the Rabble-rouser passages, the Testimonium Flavianum has fewer cells that match cells of Livy’s text, and within matching cells, there are fewer correlations with Livy’s text. This is consistent with the Testimonium Flavianum having been composed by someone who tried to imitate Josephus, but was unaware of “Josephus’ ” use of Livy as a literary model.

The Testimonium Flavianum was designed to persuade the naïve reader that Flavius Josephus had made a complimentary statement about Jesus,

The author of the Testimonium Flavianum presented Jesus favorably: Jesus did wonderful things, did not mislead his followers, was the “Christ”, was not associated with any wrong doing, and would never have been executed by Pilate but for enmity of the Jewish Hierarchy. This is the same message found in the Christian gospels. It is an unlikely statement to have come from Josephus, an aristocratic Judean who had been coopted by the Romans.

The style of the Testimonium Flavianum was derived from Livy’s account of the Bacchanalian Conspiracy. The Testimonium Flavianum references a cult which had perverse rites, condoned theft and murder, and menaced the Roman state. It is doubtful that its author was trying to be ironic. It is more likely that the author of the Testimonium Flavianum did not know the basis of the passages he was trying to mimic.

The nature of the Testimonium Flavianum provides some clues about its author. The Testimonium Flavianum was written in Greek by someone unacquainted with Livy’s Latin History of Rome. The Testimonium Flavianum mimicked the style of other passages in War of the Jews, and Antiquities of the Jews, but as the table demonstrates, the imposture was defective.

An educated man from the Eastern half of the Roman Empire would be literate in Greek, but ignorant of Latin. The use of the technical term “Christ” and the agreement of the Testimonium Flavianum with Christian dogma suggest that the forger was a Christian. (The forger may not have been an orthodox Christian.) The forger’s copy was considered authoritative, and was consulted and copied by subsequent generations.

A few additional conclusions can be drawn from the table.

Livy compared the spread of the Bacchanalian cult to a “pestilential evil” and a “contagious disease”[12] This metaphor was later applied to both proselytizers of Judean independence and to the early Christians by the Emperor Claudius, Josephus, the author of Luke/Acts and Tacitus[13].

The Testimonium Flavianum and the Emmaus episode in the Gospel attributed to Luke share many features[14]. If the Testimonium Flavianum is an interpolation ultimately dependent on a Latin source text, the literary antecedents of the Emmaus episode need to be reconsidered.

(Roger Viklund provided editorial and formatting assistance.)

David Blocker, 2014-08



[2] Josephus blamed Judean power seekers and would be kings (tyrants) for instigating the Jewish Revolt.

“That it was our rebellious spirit brought about our ruin and that it was the tyrants among the Jews who made the Roman power attack us, unwillingly, and caused our holy temple to be burned, Titus Caesar, who destroyed it, can testify.” War of the Jews, Preface, 3.

[3] Antiquities of the Jews 18 3 3.

[4] Titus Livius Patavinus (64 or 59 BC–17 CE), author of Ab Urbe Condita Libri.

[5] Livy’s History of Rome or Ab Urbe Condita Libri (Books from the Foundation of the City) originally contained 142 ”books” (libri) of which thirty-five remain. The Preface and Books 1–10, and Books 21–45, still exist in reasonably complete form. Summaries of the remainder of the work have also survived.

[6] Livy, History of Rome (Ab Urbe Condita Libri), Book 39. The Bacchanalian Conspiracy is also known as the Dionysian Conspiracy.

[7] Livy’s History of Rome or Ab Urbe Condita Libri (Books from the Foundation of the City) originally contained 142 ”books” (libri) of which thirty-five remain. The Preface and Books 1–10, and Books 21–45, still exist in reasonably complete form. Summaries of the remainder of the work have also survived.

[8] “Literary Parallels between Livy’s Description of the Bacchanalian Conspiracy, Flavius Josephus’ Accounts of Judean Demagogues and the Testimonium Flavianum”

[9] Testimonium Flavianum is the name given to Antiquities of the Jews 18 3 3.

The passage has been known to be a forgery since the 17th century, a finding confirmed by recent scholarship.

XXX Epistolae philologicae et historicae de Fl. Josephi Testimonio quod Jesu Christo tribute” (30 Philological and historical letters about the testimony of Flavius Josephus dedicated to Jesus Christ), Nuremberg 1661.

Ken A. Olson, “Eusebius and the Testimonium Flavianum,” Catholic Biblical Quarterly 61 (1999), pp. 305–322

Ken Olson, “A Eusebian Reading of the Testimonium Flavianum” in Eusebius of Caesarea: Tradition and Innovations, ed. A. Johnson & J. Schott (Harvard University Press, 2013).

Louis H. Feldman, “On the Authenticity of the Testimonium Flavianum Attributed to Josephus,” in New Perspectives on Jewish Christian Relations, ed. E. Carlebach & J. J. Schechter (Leiden: Brill, 2012).

[10] H. St. J. Thackeray, Josephus: The Man and the Historian, Lecture V, Reprinted by Ktav Publishing House, 1967.

[11] The subtle message these reports deliver to a sophisticated Roman audience is another sign that Josephus the Judean did not write them. Josephus was brought up to be well versed in Judean culture; Western Mediterranean Greco-Roman culture was despised. Josephus wrote that he made an effort to study Greek language and literature; he never mentioned having any knowledge of Latin or Latin literature.

Josephus’ Vita, Chapter 1, Family, education and early manhood of Josephus.

Antiquities of the Jews 20 11 2, “263 My own countrymen freely acknowledge my prowess in Jewish learning, and I have taken the trouble to learn the elements of Greek literature and grammar, though my pronunciation of it is not good, as I am so used to our native tongue. 264 Among us there is no welcome for people who learn the languages of other nations so as to think like them. We regard this as no proper task for a free man but rather as one that should be left to slaves who choose to learn them, whereas we deem as wise the one who fully understands our own laws and can interpret their meaning.”

[12] Livy, History of Rome 39.9;”This pestilential evil penetrated from Etruria to Rome”

[13] Antiquities of the Jews, 18 1 6, Antiquities of the Jews 19 5 2 (A quotation from Claudius’ letter to Alexandria); War of the Jews 2.13.6; Acts 24:5; Tacitus, Annals, 15.44.

[14] Goldberg, G. J. 1995 ”The Coincidences of the Emmaus Narrative of Luke and the Testimonium of Josephus” The Journal for the Study of the Pseudepigrapha 13, pp. 59-77. Article available at .

Rebels, Bandits, Frauds, Charlatans and Other Wicked Men in the works of Flavius Josephus

In this guest post, David Blocker presents a table (attached here) in which he compares all the descriptions of the so-called “Wicked Men” found in Josephus’ works, including also the description of Jesus known as the Testimonium Flavianum. Blocker’s idea (borrowed from Thackeray) that Josephus had two Greek speaking assistants who were responsible for quite a lot of the stuff present in his historical works is interesting, as is his conclusion that the Testimonium Flavianum deviates from the other descriptions of “wicked men” found in Josephus and accordingly is a later addition to the Antiquities of the Jews. Over to Blocker …


Rebels, Bandits, Frauds, Charlatans and Other Wicked Men in the works of Flavius Josephus

A Repetitive Literary Formula That Confirms the Testimonium Flavianum is an Interpolation

 A Guest Post by David Blocker 

Scattered throughout the historical and autobiographical works attributed to Flavius Josephus[1], are short narrations describing the rise and fall of the rebels, bandits (Greek: lestai), charlatans, frauds and impostors (Greek: gontes) who plagued 1st century Judea. Flavius Josephus believed these men were responsible for the outbreak of the Jewish revolt that led to the subjugation and destruction of his beloved Jerusalem[2].

These narrations can be categorized into two distinct groups

One group occurs early in Jewish War and the corresponding section of Antiquities of the Jews. These are brief summaries of the careers of assorted insurgents who were usually reported to possess great physical strength and a great desire for attaining “kingship” or “royal prerogative”[3]. Other than these two features, these descriptions do not adhere to a standardized literary format.

The second group of descriptions of Rebels, Bandits, Frauds, Charlatans and Other Wicked Men were written using a standardized literary formula. The Wicked Man was introduced and his career was recounted according to a standard pattern: the troublemaker was named or described, followed by a brief account of how he made extravagant claims or promises in order to attract disciples, whom he then led into peril. When the troublemaker and his dupes came to the attention of the Judean and Roman authorities, they were summarily dealt with and usually came to a violent end. This repeated narrative formula is used in the Jewish War, Antiquities of the Jews, and in Josephus’ Vita.

Book 18 of Antiquities of the Jews contains passages that briefly describe the activities of Jesus[4] and John the Baptist[5]. The paragraph about Jesus in Antiquities of the Jews is called the Testimonium Flavianum. These passages, at least on first glance appear, to have been written using the literary formula that was used to describe the activities of Josephus’ Wicked Men.

I assembled a table using all the examples of the Wicked Men literary formula in the works ascribed to Flavius Josephus. Each column of the table contains a passage from the works of Flavius Josephus describing the activities of a troublemaker. The passages have been broken down into smaller blocks of text which deal with particular topics or contain words which are shared by other Wicked Men narratives. These blocks of text can be arranged into parallel rows. The blocks of text within a row share common features which are listed in the cells of the first column of the table. The table demonstrates that the narratives describing Josephus’ Wicked Men, the Testimonium Flavianum, and the description of John the Baptist display a remarkable amount of parallelism. They have a common narrative sequence and within the narrative there are many shared parallel elements, such as vocabulary or subtopics.

The “Wicked Men” narratives in Antiquities of the Jews tend to be longer and more prolix than the narratives in War of the Jews; cells containing text from Antiquities of the Jews often contain more words, than the corresponding cells from Jewish War. The narratives in Josephus’ Vita seem less detailed and have a less complex structure than the narratives in the other two books. This is consistent with H. St. J. Thackeray’s contention that portions of Josephus’ works were actually written by a pair of Greek speaking assistants. A “superb Greek stylist” contributed to Jewish War, while a longwinded “Thucydian Hack” wrote large portions of the last three or four chapters of Antiquities of the Jews. Josephus Vita, according to Thackeray, was written by Josephus himself with minimal outside assistance, and the shorter simpler format of its narratives is consistent with having been written by an Aramaic speaker who learned Greek as a second language[6].

The “Wicked Men” narrative formulation was devised by the “Greek stylist”, Josephus’ first assistant. Presumably he developed and used the formula throughout the second half of Jewish War, in order to simplify his task of having to repeatedly summarize the activities of each of the many Judean troublemakers who arose during the time period leading up to the Jewish revolt. Rather than compose an original and independent passage for each of the troublemakers the “Greek stylist” simply changed a few details of his narrative formula in order to create another seemingly independent “Wicked Man” narrative.

Much of the latter half of Antiquities of the Jews presented material that had already appeared in Jewish War. The “Thucydian Hack” expanded upon the narrative formula devised by his predecessor, but retained its narrative outline when he made his contributions to the final chapters of Antiquities of the Jews. Josephus also attempted to imitate the writing techniques of his Greek assistants when he wrote the passages describing various troublemakers in his Vita.

The structure of the Testimonium Flavianum[4] and the John the Baptist episode[5] bear a superficial resemblance to the structure of the Wicked Man narratives. However, unlike the Wicked Man narratives, neither the Testimonium Flavianum nor the John the Baptist episode displays any hostility toward their subject. The Testimonium Flavianum column contains empty cells, that is, it lacks narrative elements that are contained in most of the other Wicked Men narratives. The phrase “did not cease” (Greek:οὐκ ἐπαύσαντο) in the Testimonium Flavianum is the opposite of the “Wicked Men’s” disciples escaping /fleeing/or scattering when confronted by the authorities[7]. The Testimonium Flavianum also contains a pair of cells whose contents have no match with the other Wicked Men narrations.

The Testimonium Flavianum contains some but not all of the features of the “Wicked Man” narrative format that was employed throughout Jewish War and Antiquities of the Jews. Unlike the other exemplars of this narrative format, the Testimonium Flavianum speaks favorably of its subject. These two findings suggest that the Testimonium Flavianum was not written by the original author(s) of Antiquities of the Jews, but rather by a later interpolator who had not completely mastered the style of Josephus’ literary deputies.

Other commentators have noted that the Testimonium Flavianum interrupts the narrative flow of Book 18, contains non Josephian vocabulary, and that Josephus, having already declared Vespasian the messiah, would not have turned about and jeopardized his position within the Flavian household by stating that Jesus was the Christ [8]. These are additional indicators that the Testimonium Flavianum is an interpolation which was not part of the original document produced by Josephus and his Flavian ghost writers.

The John the Baptist column in the Table has more rows that correlate with other Wicked Man rows than does the Testimonium Flavianum. However, the cells of the John the Baptist column appear to have fewer parallel topic matches (indicated by colored text in each row of the Table) with the other text columns. As mentioned above, Josephus or rather his assistant, the Thucydian Hack, appears to have written favorably about John the Baptist, while the subjects of stylistically similar passages were disparaged. This is consistent with the John the Baptist passage in Antiquities of the Jews having been edited or censored. The text maintains its narrative structure, but displays fewer correlations at the cellular level with its cognate passages in Jewish War and Antiquities of the Jews. These anomalies suggest that Josephus’ original text about John the Baptist was altered, its narrative sequence was preserved, but its implication was changed. The passage about John the Baptist was probably transformed from a report about a politically active rabble-rouser to the present story about an irksome but otherwise harmless religious reformer[9].

In conclusion, the attached table shows the extensive parallelism between the passages in the works of Flavius Josephus that describe an assortment of revolutionaries, terrorists, charlatans and other wicked men. The table confirms the multiple authorship of the works attributed to Flavius Josephus. The Testimonium Flavianum is only a partial match to the passages describing wicked men which suggests that it is an interpolation that was not written at the same time as the other passages were. The passage about John the Baptist contains evidence that it underwent later editing or censorship. More information about the composition and transmission of Josephus manuscripts could be obtained using the same tabular comparison technique to study the original Greek texts of Josephus. This table could also be used as the basis for applying advanced analytical methods from cladistics and statistics in order to answer questions about composition and authorship of the works of Flavius Josephus.

David Blocker 2014 07

[1] Jewish War, Antiquities of the Jews and Life of Flavius Josephus

[2] Jewish War, Preface 4.11:

“…and that they were the tyrants among the Jews who brought the Roman power upon us, who unwillingly attacked us, and occasioned the burning of our holy temple…”

Antiquities of the Jews 20.8.5:

After an account describing the activities of impious robbers, Josephus wrote:

“And this seems to me to have been the reason why God, out of his hatred of these men’s wickedness, rejected our city; and as for the temple, he no longer esteemed it sufficiently pure for him to inhabit therein, but brought the Romans upon us, and threw a fire upon the city to purge it; and brought upon us, our wives, and children, slavery, as desirous to make us wiser by our calamities.”

[3] Josephus’ descriptions of strong troublemakers who had royal pretentions:

From Jewish War:

2 4 1 Judas, the son of that arch-brigand Hezekias

2 4 2 Simon, one of the royal servants

2 4 3 A shepherd called Athrongeus

2 8 1 A Galilean named Judas, (See Judas in Antiquities 18.1.1)

2 13 2 The arch-brigand Eleazar and many of his group

From Antiquities of the Jews:

17 10 4. “for many rose up to go to war”

17 10 5. A fellow called Judas, son of the Ezekias who had been leader of the brigands

17 10 6. A slave of king Herod called Simon

17 10 7 Athrongeus

17 10 8 (285) Judea was full of robberies, and as the various rebel groups chose anyone they found to head them, he immediately became king, to the public ruin. They harmed only a few of the Romans, and in small ways, but committing terrible murders among their own people.

18 1 1 JUDAS, A GAULONITE from a city called Gamala, with the support of the Pharisee Sadduc, … I will explain a little about this, since the infection of the younger impressionable elements by these ideas brought our affairs to ruin.

18 1 6 Judas the Galilean.

Josephus’ description of murderous terrorists:

From Jewish War:

2 13 3 “Another sort of brigands called Sicarii grew up in Jerusalem, who killed people in broad daylight even in the city itself. 255 This was mainly during the festivals, when they mingled among the people with daggers concealed under their clothing to stab their enemies, and when the victim fell, joined in the protest against it, to make them seem trustworthy, so they could not be found out. 256 The first to be killed by them was Jonathan the high priest, after whom many were killed daily, resulting in a terror that was worse than the event itself, and as everyone faced the prospect of death at any moment, the same as in wartime. 257 People had to be on guard and keep their distance, no longer daring to trust even friends who were approaching them, but despite all precautions and security, they were still killed, so quickly and cunningly did the conspirators come at them.”

From Antiquities of the Jews: 17 10 8

[4] Antiquities of the Jews 18 3 3

[5] Antiquities of the Jews 18 5 2 (114 et seq.)

[6] H. St. J. Thackeray, Josephus, Man and Historian; Lecture V.

[7] The canonical Gospels state that Jesus’ disciples deserted him and fled at the first sign of trouble (Mark 15:40 and parallels),and that Simon Peter, in particular, repudiated his leader (Matthew 26:33-35, Mark 14:29-31, Luke 22:33-34, John 13:36-38). This is the opposite of Josephus’ statement that Jesus was not abandoned by his followers.

[8]Ken Olson, ”A Eusebian Reading of the Testimonium Flavianum” in Eusebius of Caesarea: Tradition and Innovations, ed. A. Johnson & J. Schott (Harvard University Press, 2013)

Ken A. Olson, ”Eusebius and the Testimonium Flavianum,” Catholic Biblical Quarterly 61 (1999), pp. 305–322

Louis H. Feldman, “On the Authenticity of the Testimonium Flavianum Attributed to Josephus,” in New Perspectives on Jewish Christian Relations, ed. E. Carlebach & J. J. Schechter (Leiden: Brill, 2012

[9] In the Gospel of Mark*, Slavonic Josephus ** and Apocryphal John texts ***, John posed a threat to the legitimacy of Herod Antipas’ rule by implying that Herod’s impious marriage to his sister in law made him unfit to rule over his Jewish subjects.

* Mark 6:14-20

**( (9)John the Forerunner, p. 644 and (11) The Wild Man (John) p. 646, from the Slavonic Additions in Josephus III, the Jewish Was, Books IV-VII, with an English translation by H. St. John Thackeray, Harvard University Press, Cambridge, MA, 1928, reprinted 1968 )

***The Life of John the Baptist by Serapion from A. Mingana, Woodbrooke Studies: Christian Documents in Syriac, Arabic, and Garshuni, vol. 1, Cambridge 1927, pp. 138-287 and The Beheading of John by Euriptus, the disciple of John, translated by Tony Burke from A. Vassiliev, Anecdota graeco-byzantina, I, Moscow, 1893, pp. 1-4, based on Montis Casin. 277 (11th c.) recovered from on July 18, 2014. This page archived at*/

An Occult Priestly Installation Ritual in the Secret Gospel of Mark


This is a guest post by David Blocker, refuting the presumptuous idea that the σινδόνα (linen cloth) the youth wore on his bare body when “Jesus taught him the mystery of the Kingdom of God” would imply eroticism or sexuality. Instead Blocker suggests that the scene should be interpreted as an installation rite for a new High Priest.

The article is also available as a pdf file (An Occult Priestly Installation Ritual in the Secret Gospel of Mark) in which the colour coding of certain phrases in the article are easier to see.


An Occult Priestly Installation Ritual in the Secret Gospel of Mark

by David Blocker


In 1960, Morton Smith announced the discovery of an 18th century handwritten transcription of a letter written by Clement of Alexandria in the late 2nd or early 3rd century. Clement’s letter was a response to an inquiry about a previously unknown version of the Gospel of Mark. Since the letter’s unveiling, it has been the subject of an ever escalating partisan madness, including accusations of forgery, academic fraud, postulated rituals of sex and death, and wildly imagined claims about the sexual predilections of the letter’s discoverer.

In this essay, an excerpt from the Secret Gospel of Mark quoted in Clement’s letter to Theodore, is compared to passages extracted from the Tanakh. The narrative sequence in the Secret Mark excerpt has multiple parallels to the descriptions of the installation rites for high priest. This suggests the claims that the long excerpt from the Secret Gospel of Mark has a homoerotic content are unfounded misinterpretations of the text [1].

The following passage was excerpted from Clement’s Letter to Theodore [2]. Phrases from the Secret Gospel of Mark that have parallels in the Tanakh have been color coded or noted with a special font (See below for parallel passages from the Tanakh).

“ … And a certain woman whose brother had died [ἀπέθανεν] was there. … And Jesus, … , went off with her into the garden where the tomb was, and straightway, going in to where the youth was, he stretched forth his hand and raised him [ἤγειρεν] (from the dead [3])… . And going out of the tomb they came into the house of the youth, for he was rich. And after six days [4] Jesus told [ἐπέταξεν] him what to do and in the evening the youth comes to him, wearing a linen cloth [σινδόνα] over his naked body [ἐπὶ γυμνοῦ]. And he remained with him that night, for Jesus taught him the mystery of the Kingdom of God. … .”

Compare the excerpt from the Secret Gospel of Mark to these passages from the Tanakh:

Exodus 28:41-43, “41And thou shalt put them upon Aaron thy brother, and his sons with him; and shalt anoint them, and consecrate them, and sanctify them, that they may minister unto me in the priest’s office. 42 And thou shalt make them linen breeches to cover their nakedness; from the loins even unto the thighs they shall reach: 43And they shall be upon Aaron, and upon his sons, when they come in unto the tabernacle of the congregation, or when they come near unto the altar to minister in the holy place; that they bear not iniquity, and die: … [5]”

Ezekiel 44:18, “They are to wear linen turbans 5 on their heads and linen undergarments around their waists. They must not wear anything that makes them perspire.”

Leviticus 16:4 (Douay-Rheims 1899 American Edition (DRA), “4 He shall be vested with a linen tunick, he shall cover his nakedness with linen breeches: he shall be girded with a linen girdle, and he shall put a linen mitre 6 upon his head: for these are holy vestments: all which he shall put on, after he is washed.”


Leviticus 16:4 (International Standard Version (©2012), “He is to wear a sacred linen tunic and linen undergarments that will cover his genitals. He is to clothe himself with a sash and wrap his head with a linen turban [6]. Because they are sacred garments, he is to wash himself with water before putting them on.”

Leviticus 16:23, “23 Then Aaron is and take off the linen garments he put on before he entered the Most Holy Place, and he is to leave them there.

Exodus 20:26;“And you must not go up by steps to my altar, so that your nakedness is not exposed”

Exodus 30:20 (New International Version (©2011)), “Whenever they enter the tent of meeting, they shall wash with water so that they will not die. Also, when they approach the altar to minister by presenting a food offering to the LORD,”

Leviticus 8:33-35: “Do not leave the entrance to the tent of meeting for seven days, until the days of your ordination are completed, for your ordination will last seven days. 34 What has been done today was commanded by the Lord to make atonement for you. 35 You must stay at the entrance to the tent of meeting day and night for seven days and do what the Lord requires, so you will not die; for that is what I have been commanded.”

Ezekiel 44:25-26, “A priest must not defile himself by going near a dead person; however, if the dead person was his father or mother, son or daughter, brother or unmarried sister, then he may defile himself. 26 After he is cleansed, he must wait seven days.”

Comparison of extracts from Secret Mark with extracts from the Tanakh. All the examples are drawn from the above texts.

Secret Gospel of Mark: wearing a linen cloth over his naked body

Exodus 28: 41-42 “ linen breeches to cover their nakedness

Ezekiel 44:19, “ They are to wear linen turbans 5 on their heads and linen undergarments around their waists

Leviticus 16:4 (Douay-Rheims 1899 American Edition (DRA), “ he shall cover his nakedness with linen breeches: … linen mitre … .”

Leviticus 16:23, “ linen garments


Secret Gospel of Mark: And a certain woman whose brother had died was there.

Ezekiel 44:25, “A priest must not defile himself by going near a dead person; however, if the dead person was his father or mother, son or daughter, brother or unmarried sister, then he may defile himself.


Secret Gospel of Mark: “and raised him (from the dead 3)”

Leviticus 8:33; “so you will not die

Exodus 30:20; (New International Version (©2011)), “so that they will not die.”


Secret Gospel of Mark: “Jesus told him what to do

Leviticus 8:34: “What has been done today was commanded by the Lordthat is what I have been commanded.”


Secret Gospel of Mark: “And after six days 4

Leviticus 8:33-35: “ … seven days, … your ordination will last seven days. … 35 … seven days… ”

Ezekiel 44:25-26, “ … he must wait seven days.”


Secret Gospel of Mark: “naked body

Exodus 28:42, “nakedness

Leviticus 16:4 (Douay-Rheims 1899 American Edition (DRA), “nakedness

Exodus 20:26;“ … nakedness … ”


Secret Gospel of Mark: “And going out of the tomb they came into the house of the youth, for he was rich. And after six days 4”

Leviticus 8:33-35: “Do not leave the entrance to the tent of meeting for seven days, … 35 You must stay at the entrance to the tent of meeting day and night for seven days … ”


The “house of the youth” where he stayed for six or seven days prior to his meeting with Jesus, seems to play the role of the tent of meeting where the high priest elect stayed prior to the final installation ceremony.

Although there are clear parallels in the translations, the Secret Gospel of Mark is written in Greek and the Tanakh passages in Hebrew. In the Greek translation of the Tanakh, the Septuagint, the nakedness is expressed in words like χρωτὸς (skin or body) and ἀσχημοσύνη (shame, that which is unseemly) while Secret Mark has the expressionἐπὶ γυμνοῦ (on his bare body). Secret Mark has σινδόνα (linen cloth) while the Septuagint has λίνος (linen) combined with the article of clothing. Both use the same word for “to die” (ἀποθνῄσκω) but different words for commanding (ἐπιτάσσω and ἐντέλλομαι), etcetera.

Accordingly comparison of the text of the Secret Gospel of Mark to selected texts from the Tanakh demonstrate a similar vocabulary if translation effect is taken into account. The latter texts describe how to perform the ritual for instructing and sanctifying a new high priest. There is no hint of eroticism in the passages from the Tanakh. Both the Tanakh and the Secret Gospel of Mark state that the person undergoing instruction wore a linen (under)garment. In the Tanakh they did so in order to preserve their modesty and there is every reason to suppose that this was the motive also in the Secret Mark scene. Based on the language shared by the Tanakh and the Secret Gospel of Mark there is no reason to assume that the passage from the Secret Gospel of Mark describes a homoerotic ritual. Furthermore, the transmitter of the excerpt from the Secret Gospel of Mark, Clement of Alexandria, does not ascribe any reprehensible properties to the text. Clement counsels Theodore, the recipient of his letter, that it is only the corrupted version used by the Carpocratians that is heretical and salacious [1].

Additionally, it is hard to see why certain critics of the text assumed that the rich young man’s love for Jesus was homosexual in nature. The same terminology is used to describe Jesus’ affection for Lazarus [7], and for the disciple who allegedly composed the Gospel of John, the disciple Jesus loved [8]. No mainstream bible interpreter has accused Jesus of harboring homosexual thoughts, in spite of his love for these two men. Peter also declared his love for Jesus [9], yet the mainstream theological literature has never accused him of lusting after Jesus. Thus it seems that the definition of the word “love” has been inconsistently applied by some of the critics of Secret Mark.

If one is to find a match in the ancient literature for the ritual the rich young man in the Secret Gospel of Mark underwent, a possible match is the ritual for installing a new high priest as set forth in the Tanakh. If this was actually the case, then the author of the Secret Gospel of Mark was doing his best to keep the true nature of the ritual occult, or hidden from the casual reader. The text hints that Jesus had ordained a new High Priest to supplant the incumbent High Priest, Joseph ben Caiaphas, who was maintained in office by the Romans.

This supposititious ordination occurs at a point in the canonical Gospel of Mark’s narrative immediately before Jesus’ march on Jerusalem[10]. Therefore, the suspicion is raised that Jesus had planned to overthrow the Romans and their quisling High Priest, and install a replacement High Priest who was more to his liking. Having an overtly political and militant Jesus as the nominal founder of Christianity would not have found favor with the rulers of the Roman Empire, so it is not surprising that the Secret Gospel of Mark was kept a secret.

Acknowledgements: I want to extend my gratitude to Roger Viklund for his editorial assistance.


David Blocker



[1]) On the other hand, Clement wrote to Theodore that the heretical Carpocratians had a spurious version of the text which did narrate unseemly carnal acts.The Carpocratian version of the Gospel of Mark apparently contained the phrase γυμνὸς γυμνῷ,naked man with naked man, which, according to Clement, was not found in the original version of the Secret Gospel of Mark.

Clement wrote this about the Carpocratian text:

“But since the foul demons are always devising destruction for the race of men, Carpocrates, instructed by them and using deceitful arts, so enslaved a certain presbyter of the church in Alexandria that he got from him a copy of the Secret Gospel, which he both interpreted according to his blasphemous and carnal doctrine and, moreover, polluted, mixing with the spotless and holy words utterly shameless lies. From this mixture is derived the teachings of the Carpocratians.”

[2]) The complete quotation of the Secret Mark excerpt:

“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, 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.”

[3]) “from the dead” inserted for clarity. See John 11:44 from the Raising of Lazarus story, which parallels the Secret Gospel of Mart narrative.

[4]) If the day the young man emerged from the tomb is counted as day one instead of day zero, then the rich young man’s meeting with Jesus occurred seven days after he exited the tomb. This way of counting days seems to have been a contemporary practice. Jesus’ resurrection on the third day is another example of this style of counting (Mid day Friday to early Sunday morning is counted as “three days”.)

[5]) Presumably the fatal iniquity referred to in Exodus 28:43 is the priest inadvertently exposing his genitals when he approaches the altar. The linen undergarment described in Exodus 28:42 would prevent this dread event and preserve the high priest’s modesty. Exodus 20:26 prohibits exposing oneself when mounting the altar.

[6]) John 11:44 (New International Version (NIV)), “44 The dead man came out, his hands and feet wrapped with strips of linen, and a cloth around his face. Jesus said to them, ‘Take off the grave clothes and let him go’.”

Both John 11:44 and Leviticus 16:4 refer to head wrappings. The text of John11, the Raising of Lazarus, is a literary analogue of the excerpt from the Secret Gospel of Mark (

[7]) John 11:5; “Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus.”John 11:36; “Then the Jews said, “See how he loved him!” The word love (Greek: agapaô, phileô) is used to describe what Jesus called his friendship with Lazarus:

John 11:11; “After he had said this, he went on to tell them, “Our friend Lazarus has fallen asleep; but I am going there to wake him up.” ”

[8]) John 13:23, John 19:26, John 21:7, John 21:20.

[9]) The disciple Peter also admitted his love for Jesus (John 21:15-17) but no mainstream Bible interpreter has ever imputed a homosexual underpinning to Peter’s love for Jesus.

[10]) Mark 11:7-11, Jesus’ so called Triumphal Entry into Jerusalem.

Literary Parallels between Clement’s Excerpt from the Secret Gospel of Mark, the Raising of Lazarus from the Gospel of John, and the Transfiguration of Jesus from the Gospels of Mark, Matthew and Luke

A guest post by David Blocker:






Previous posts on this web site demonstrated the existence of extensive literary parallels between Clement’s excerpt from the Secret Gospel of Mark, the Raising of Lazarus story from the Gospel of John, and the synoptic Gospels’ stories about miraculous healings, reanimations of the dead and the expulsion of demons into swine.

This essay and the accompanying table demonstrate newly discovered parallels between Clement’s Secret Mark excerpt and the Transfiguration of Jesus episode from the synoptic gospels (Mark 9:2-13 and parallels).

I became aware of the parallels when I noticed that the words “six days” at the beginning of the Transfiguration story in the Gospel of Mark (Mark 9:2), also occurred in the Secret Mark excerpt and in the Gospel of John (John 12:1). Further examination of these texts demonstrated that they and Clement’s excerpt from Secret Mark have a closely linked set of sequential parallel themes.

The text of Matthew’s Transfiguration scene also closely mirrors the above mentioned texts.

These parallels are presented in the accompanying table.

The table named “Secret Mark Parallels with the Transfiguration in the Gospels of Mark Luke and Matthew” shows that the texts contain parallel mentions of traveling, rebuking, the Kingdom of Heaven (or God), six days, white clothing and giving instructions. The gospel texts are in vertical columns, the parallel text segments are arranged in horizontal rows.  The left most column of the table lists the topics of the parallels that are contained in each row, and specific text parallels in each row are color coded.

I had previously demonstrated that the synoptic gospel stories about miraculous healings, the exorcism of demons, and the restoration of the dead to life, have a literary relationship to the Secret Gospel of Mark excerpt, which in turn is related to the Raising of Lazarus story in the Gospel of John (See here and here).

This suggests that the miracle stories from the synoptic gospels are literary creations. They seem to be based on, or were inspired by a common source, most likely a story similar to the Raising of Lazarus. They are not unrelated accounts of independently occurring events.

The Gospel of Mark is a literary fugue, whose component miracle stories are variations on a common theme.

The Gospel of Mark was already known to have an intricate internal structure due to the way its parts were assembled out of intercalated layers.

I have now shown that the author of Mark included yet another complication in his work, by making it a literary fugue.

The narrative structure of the Gospel of Mark is remarkably complex, with its internal verses as intertwined and closely layered as the melody of a Bach fugue.

The synoptic gospels’ healing pericopes are often more closely matched to the Raising of Lazarus pericope than they are to the Secret Mark excerpt. This indicates the text they used as their model or source, was more like the Gospel of John’s text about Lazarus, than Secret Marks’ account of Jesus and the rich young man.

The Transfiguration pericope in the Gospel of Luke contains some significant differences from the Mark’s and Matthew’s Transfiguration.  The Gospel Luke does not have the “six day” parallel (Luke 9:28, “…about eight days…”), nor does Luke explicitly mention Jesus giving instructions to his disciples at the end of the parallel texts (Luke 9:36 vs. Mark 9:9 and Matthew 17:9).

Luke does contain a phrase about awakening from sleep (Luke 9:32, “…and when they wakened…”) which has no counterpart in Matthew or Mark, but which is analogous to phrases about waking up in the Secret Mark excerpt (“…and when Jesus woke up…”) and the Gospel of John’s Raising of Lazarus (John 11:11, “…I go to awake him out of sleep…”).

The author of the Gospel of Luke used his sources differently than did the author of Mark and Matthew.  The author of Luke changed the number of days from the “six days” of the other texts to eight, emphasized the disciples’ sleeping, presented Peter as bewildered by the miracle he had just witnessed (Luke 9:33), and had the disciples decide to remain silent about the miracle on their own (Luke 9:28), rather than at Jesus’ behest (Mark 9:9 and Matthew 17:9).

Luke’s version of the Transfiguration has overlaps with the text from the Gospel of John that the other two synoptic texts do not have. Interestingly some of these passages prefigure later passages in the synoptic gospels. For example the disciple’s napping while Jesus was Transfigured (Luke 9:32) prefigured their later somnolence while Jesus was awaiting his arrest (Mark 14:37, Luke 22:45, Matthew 26:40), reinforcing the disciples’ unworthiness to be his followers or the inheritors of his teachings.

The synoptic gospel’s account of the Transfiguration described a mountain top revelation about the Kingdom of Heaven, from people who had previously gained admission to the Kingdom of Heaven (Moses and Elijah).  The essay 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? which I co-authored with Roger Viklund, showed that there were literary and thematic parallels between the Secret Mark Excerpt and another text about the revelation of the mysteries of Heaven to Jesus’ disciples, the Shem-Tob Hebrew Matthew. 21:17 (From George Howard, Hebrew Gospel of Matthew, Macon, GA: Mercer University Press, 1995).

The Secret Mark excerpt discovered by Morton Smith provides a key text that shows how seemingly disparate passages in the synoptic gospels are linked to one another, to the Raising of Lazarus story in the Gospel of John, and to a passage in Shem-Tob’s Hebrew Matthew.

I want to thank Roger Viklund for his editorial assistance and for generously allowing me to publish my findings on his web blog.

David Blocker, 2013 06 04

The Literary Relationship of the Raising of Lazarus story to The Secret Gospel of Mark Excerpts quoted in the Mar Saba Letter of Clement, and Miraculous Healing Stories in the Synoptic Gospels

This is a Guest post by David Blocker on Literary Relationship between the Lazarus story in GJohn and Secret Mark and Healing Stories in the Synoptic Gospels. The enclosed table is made as an A0 Oversize PDF of more than one square meter in size. It accordingly needs to be magnified on the screen.

Parallel Passages in the Gospels of SecretMark_John_Mark_Luke and Matthew

Two previous posts on this blog have demonstrated parallels between the “Secret Gospel of Mark” excerpt contained in “Clement’s Letter to Theodore” and canonical and non canonical gospel texts:

Overlaps between Secret Mark, the Raising of Lazarus in John, and the Gerasene Swine episode in Mark

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? (as a PDF file here)

This essay discusses the attached table which demonstrates additional parallels between the “Secret Gospel of Mark” and the canonical “Gospel of Mark” and its synoptic counterparts in Luke and Matthew.  These parallel texts appear to be derived from the story of the “Raising of Lazarus”.

The texts have been arranged in parallel columns.  Text parallels appearing in the same row have generally been color coded or given a special font attribute for emphasis.  Text segments that are out of sequence or have been duplicated are enclosed by parenthesizes.

The parallel texts include the “The Raising of Lazarus” (John 11),  “The Long Excerpt from the Secret Gospel of Mark”, “The Demoniac and the Gadarene Swine” (Mark 5 and synoptic parallels), Healing the Blind (Mark 10 and parallels), “The Epileptic Boy Healed” (Mark 9 and parallels, including Shem Tob Hebrew Matthew 17), “Jesus and the sons of Zebedee” (Mark 10 and parallels), the “Naked Youth in the Garden of Gethsemane” (Mark 14) and “Jesus visits Mary and Martha” (Luke 10).  The interrelationships between these texts and the “Anointing of Jesus” (John 12, Mark 14, and Matthew 26) are also demonstrated.  The dependency of Luke 10 on both the “Raising of Lazarus” and the “Anointing of Jesus” is shown.

As previously noted the long excerpt from Secret Mark contains the phrase “Mystery of the Kingdom of God” which has its counterpart only in “Shem Tob Hebrew Matthew”.  It is unlikely that Morton Smith had been acquainted with this text (see A Fourteenth Century Text in which Jesus Taught the Kingdom of God During the Night at Bethany).  If Morton Smith had forged “Secret Mark”, he would have had to have known of at least some of the links to the other texts included in the accompanying table.  Rather than attempting to make his reputation based on the putative discovery of the “Secret Mark” letter, Morton Smith could have made his reputation by publishing his discovery of the linked texts, a significant accomplishment in itself.

The fact is that during his lifetime, even though he wrote extensively about “Secret Mark”, Morton Smith never recognized that it was related to a multiplicity of other texts.  This oversight would have been unlikely had he been the creator of “Secret Mark”.

The fact that multiple miracle stories within the “Gospel of Mark” are related to a single story in the “Gospel of John” means that the order in which the canonical gospels were written must be reconsidered, as well as how solutions to the synoptic problem are formulated.

The Markan miracle stories listed in the accompanying table are based on incompletely overlapping excerpts from the “Raising of Lazarus” (John 11) and its sequel the “Anointing at Bethany” (John 12).  This suggests that the stories from the “Gospel of Mark” are based on the Lazarus story or a precursor of the Lazarus story.  The converse, that the narrative in John was created from an assemblage of several similarly constructed but seemingly independent stories from the “Gospel of Mark” is unlikely.  This leads to the conclusion that there is at least one extended narrative sequence in the “Gospel of John”: (John 11-12) that predates the composition of the “Gospel of Mark”.

The Markan story that is most closely related to the Bethany narratives in the “Gospel of John” is the excerpts from the “Secret Gospel of Mark”.  Next in line, the “The Epileptic Boy Healed” seems to have the greatest narrative similarity to the Bethany narratives in the “Gospel of John”.

However, in spite of the dissimilarity of the stories, it is the canonical Mark story of the “Demoniac and the Gerascene Swine” that has the greatest phrase by phrase overlap with the text of the “Raising of Lazarus”.  The motivation of the author of the “Gospel of Mark” for creating such a lengthy and carefully constructed caricature of the Bethany narratives within his own text is now unknown.  He must have had some now indiscernible reason to lampoon or conceal the “Raising of Lazarus” story and to disconnect it from the “Anointing of Jesus” story.  The author of the “Gospel of Luke” also almost completely expunged all recognizable traces of the Bethany narratives from his text.  Again this suggests that there was something about the Bethany stories that the synoptic Gospel authors thought best to conceal.

“The Naked Youth in the Garden of Gethsemane” (Mark 14) appears to have a tenuous relationship to the “Secret Gospel of Mark”.  One possible hypothesis is that Mark 14.50-52 is a fragment of the “corrupt and unspeakable” Carpocratian version of the “Gospel of Mark” referred to by Clement in his letter to Theodore.

The stories of healing the blind man/men (Mark 10.46-52, Mt 9.27-31, Mt 20.29-34, and Luke 18.35-43) are parallel to the story of Jesus and the sons of Zebedee.  In the “Gospel of Matthew” the story is doubled, with the second version about two blind men.  This increased its similarity to the story about the two Zebedees asking Jesus for more power and influence.  The author of the “Gospel of Matthew” appears to be making a specific literary reference to his disapproval of the Zebedees by likening them to two blind men.

A hypothesis that I plan to explore in greater detail is that a miraculous healing was actually a metaphor for the successful recruitment of an individual or group to the Jesus sect.

The two passages quoted below from the “Gospel of Mark” equate “sickness” with “sin” or unacceptable behavior.  In this case the sinners are tax collectors (Mark 2:15) and presumably other collaborators with the Roman occupation of Judea (See Luke 3:10-14 where John admonishes the well off, tax collectors (publicans) and soldiers (mercenaries drawing wages from the Romans)).

Mark 2:5: And when Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, ”My son, your sins are forgiven.

Mark 2:17: And when Jesus heard it, he said to them, ”Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick; I came not to call the righteous, but sinners.”

When the “sinner” rejects his prior way of life and converts to the mind set promulgated by Jesus he is forgiven, and “cured” of his metaphorical diseases.

This essay only touches upon analyzing the relationships between the texts in the comparison table which are based on the Raising of Lazarus story.  The table suggests that there is a recursive or repetitive structure within the “Gospel of Mark”.  Variations of the same story are used over and over to create a set of seemingly independent miracle stories. These stories were assembled into a longer narrative consisting of cycles made up of the variations of the source story.

This is not the only example of creative recycling of a narrative in the “Gospel of Mark”.  The “Miracle of the Feeding the Multitude” is another example of a story found in the “Gospel of John” (John 6:1-4) that was presented in two different forms in the “Gospel of Mark”: (Mark 6:30-44 and Mark 8:1-9).  “The miraculous catch of fish” (Mark 1:16-20) may also belong to this set of stories and be related to the source of the fish in the very earliest version of the narrative.  “Calming the Storm” (Mark 4:35-41) and “Walking on Water” (Mark 6:45-52) is another example of a pair of Markan variations of a story found in the “Gospel of John” (John 6:16-21).

At least superficially, the narrative of the “Gospel of Mark” consists of a series of story cycles centered about miraculous healings or feedings.  These stories are literary variations of narratives found in the “Gospel of John”.  In some cases the stories have been altered almost beyond recognition and only through careful analysis can their common origin be recognized.  In many cases the story cycles seem to be framed by Jesus being followed by crowds and arriving or departing by boat.  The multiplication of stories found in the “Gospel of John”, within the text of the “Gospel of Mark”, suggest that the Johannine narratives predate the “Gospel of Mark”.

The fact that the “Secret Gospel of Mark” narrative belongs to this cluster of stories is consistent with it being an original Markan narrative rather than a modern forgery.

David Blocker

Flavius Josephus’ Ancient Editors Modifying the Text of The War of the Jews. A Guest Post by David Blocker

Vad gäller frågan om huruvida Josefus skrev något om Jesus eller inte,  är den intimt förknippad med frågan om hur mycket man har varit benägen att ändra i de texter av Josefus som genom århundradena har kopierats om och om igen av kanske främsta kristna. David Blocker tar upp berättelserna om Josefus’ kapitulation, hans profetia om att Vespasianus skulle bli ny kejsare och hur detta påverkade dennes uppfattning om Josefus. Blockers tes är att man inte alls dragit sig för att skriva om berättelserna efter eget skön. Över till David Blocker …

The issue of whether or not Josephus wrote anything about Jesus is intimately related to the question: to what extent were people willing to alter the texts of Josephus which during the centuries were copied over and over again by mostly Christians? David Blocker deals with the stories of Josephus’ surrender, his prophecy that Vespasian would become the new Emperor, and how this affected Vespasian’s impression of Josephus. Blocker’s thesis is that people did not hesitate to alter and rewrite the stories their own way, if it suited their purpose. Over to David Blocker …

Flavius Josephus’ Ancient Editors

Modifying the Text of  The War of the Jews.

By David Blocker

There were late classical and medieval scribes, translators, apologists and authors who had no compunction about modifying the text of the works of Flavius Josephus, either to use the altered text to better support their own arguments, or merely to add drama to the story they were telling.

In the autobiographical section of “War of the Jews”, Josephus recounts how he commanded the Jewish forces besieged by the Romans at Jotapata.  When the Romans breeched the city wall, rather than fight to the death, he fled and hid in an underground cistern with a group of other men.  When their hiding place was discovered, Josephus’ compatriots wanted to commit suicide rather than surrender to the Romans. Josephus, their former commander, took charge of the situation and organized a suicide lottery. Josephus survived the mass suicide, surrendered to the Romans, and was taken to Vespasian, the victorious Roman commander.

Josephus survived his encounter with the Flavians, Vespasian and his son Titus.  For the remainder of the Jewish War Josephus assisted Vespasian’s son, Titus by acting as an informant about Judean affairs and by negotiating with the revolutionaries.  After the war, Josephus was rewarded by being made a Flavian client, and was given an estate in Judea, a pension and a house in Rome ([1])

Josephus claimed that Vespasian spared him because he had prophesied that Vespasian would become the Roman Emperor.

Several different versions of Josephus’ account have been preserved (See Appendix 1).

One version presented Josephus as a pious man whose life was preserved by God so that he could become God’s minister to the Romans (or reveal him to be a self serving hypocrite who used religion to justify even his most distasteful actions).   Another version showed him to be a fast thinking trickster, and yet another as a man who preserved his life through the use of intimidation and force.

Other details concerning how Josephus and his compatriots were discovered also underwent alteration; some versions present the Romans in a less favorable light than others.

Finally, there are different versions of the story how the prophecy was delivered to Vespasian.  Some offer an alternative narrative that does not include Josephus (See Appendix 2.5 and 2.6).

If the original text did not survive, then an alteration could either remain undetected, or a suspected alteration could end up the topic of endless unresolved debate.

The changes to Josephus’ story show that his biographical or historical works were not considered fixed or canonical texts by the persons who transcribed, translated, quoted or otherwise transmitted his books.

If critical passages dealing with Josephus’ narrow escape from death, and his subsequent encounter with Vespasian could be altered according to the whim of the redactor, then it is quite probable that other passages in the works of Josephus have also undergone alteration.

David Blocker, 2012/01

Appendix 1:


Different versions of Josephus’ account of his escape from death from the hands of his fellow combatants and then the Romans, followed by his prophecy that Vespasian would become the ruler of the known world are presented below.

1) From the standard Greek text of Flavius Josephus’ War of the Jews, Book 3.8 (388 et seq.)

In this version Josephus stated that he had a dream that lead him to believe it was his duty to surrender and “act as God’s minister to the Romans”.  He survived the death lottery thanks to the “providence of God” and through his powers of persuasion; he convinced his fellow survivor that unlike their predecessors in death, they should neither murder, nor be killed by, a fellow country man.

Josephus had been in command of the Judean forces resisting the Roman siege of the city of Jotapata.  After a prolonged siege, the Romans were finally able to break through the city walls, and sack the city.  In particular, they wanted to find Josephus, whose leadership had allowed the city to hold out against them for so long.

Josephus hid from the Romans in a cistern, or underground chamber, with 40 other men.  The Romans captured a woman who revealed their hiding place.

Out of supplies, and with the Romans, threatening to force them out of their hiding place, Josephus’ companions wanted to commit suicide rather than surrender to the Romans.  Josephus, their former commander, unsuccessfully tried to convince them not to kill themselves.  At this point they began to threaten Josephus, and attempted to attack him.

Josephus fended off his 40 irate compatriots.

3.387But in his straits, his resource did not forsake him.  Trusting to God’s protection, he put his life to the hazard, 388and said: “Since we are resolved to die, come, let us leave the lot to decide the order in which we are to kill ourselves; let him who draws the first lot fall by the hand of him who comes next; 389fortune will thus take her course through the whole number, and we shall be spared from taking our lives with our own hands. For it would be unjust that when the rest are gone, any should repent and escape.” This proposal inspired confidence; his advice was taken, and he drew lots with the rest. 390Each man thus selected presented his throat to his neighbor, in the assurance that his general was forthwith to share his fate; for sweeter to them than life was the thought of death with Josephus. 391He, however (should one say by fortune or by the providence of God?) was left alone with one other; and, anxious neither to be condemned by the lot nor, should be left to the last, to stain his hand with the blood of a fellow-countryman, he persuaded this man also, under a pledge, to remain alive. 392Having thus survived both the war with the Romans and that with his own friends, Josephus was brought by Nicanor into Vespasian’s presence. 393The Romans all flocked to see him, and from the multitude crowding around the general, arose a hubbub of discordant voices: some exulting at his capture, some threatening, some pushing forward to obtain a nearer view. 394The more distant spectators clamored for the punishment of their enemy, but those close beside him recalled his exploits and marveled at such a reversal of fortune. 395Of the officers there was not one who, whatever his past resentment, did not then relent at the sight of him.”

Josephus predicted that Vespasian will become emperor:

One of Vespasian’s friends raised the question why Josephus did not predict the fall of Jotapata and his capture.

“To his [Josephus’ prophecy] speech Vespasian, at the moment, seemed to attach little credit, supposing it to be a trick of Josephus to save his life. 404Gradually, however he was led to believe it, for God was already rousing in him thoughts of empire and by other tokens foreshadowing the throne.  He found, moreover that Josephus had proved a veracious prophet in other matters.”

Josephus replied that he had foretold that Jotapata would fall in 47 days and that he would be captured.

2)  The next passage is from PseudoHegisippus, a 4th century Latin paraphrase of Jewish War.  Josephus uses his powers of persuasion to escape from the death lottery.

“Also at Iotapata an attack was made at early dawn on the forty eighth day,  … …

Others much wearied by the fight dropped their hands and offered themselves to a wounding, so that by death they would be snatched away from the deadly spectacle of their misfortunes. Deceived by the carelessness of those dying the centurion Antonius asked by a certain one who had taken refuge in caves, that he should give him his right hand a pledge of pardon and safety, heedless of treachery immediately extended it and, woe to the wretched too confident of triumph, but that one strikes him off guard with a javelin and immediately transfixes him, lest the victory be complete for the Romans. That very day all whosoever who were found were killed, on the following days however even from cellars and other underground holes they were brought out or killed on the spot small children and women excepted. Forty thousands were killed through all the days, in the number who were seized two hundred thousand were led into servitude. The city was destroyed and burned up by fire and every redoubt in the thirteenth year of the reign of Nero.

Josephus meanwhile in a certain cistern was hiding among the glowing ashes of the city, not all unaware that as the leader of the opposing forces he was being zealously sought for. Having come out on the second day, when he noticed that everything was encircled, he returned into the cistern.

On the third day a certain woman found out (and) revealed to those seeking him that the hiding places of Josephus were known to her.

But in the cistern (there were) also forty men who had fled there (and) were hiding themselves. Who -when they noticed Josephus (was) to be summoned out by Vespasian in the hope of (his) safety (guaranteed) first through Paulinus and Gallicanus, (and) afterwards through Nicanoris, who was bound to Josephus by virtue of ancient friendship, and for that reason sent (to him, so) that he should give a pledge, he willingly carried out the obligation of the assigned task, having surrounded Josephus, they addressed him with words of such kind.”

*   Here follows the lengthy argument they made about why they should kill themselves, rather than allow the Romans to display them in a Triumph, or otherwise take advantage of them once they had surrendered their freedom. See Note below for the complete text ( [2] ).

XVIII. These things (to) Josephus (were) laid out, by which he voided the vindication of voluntary death. But those who had once vowed themselves to death, because they were unable to oppose their words, with their swords stood around the man, as if they were about to strike immediately unless he should think he must acquiesce.

But he, (who was) surrounded, called back one (of them) by the authority of a leader by the consciousness of courage, he approached another with a severe gaze. He withdrew his right hand, he turned aside the wrath of that one, he soothed them with the wholesomeness of his counsel.

By various methods he twisted away the irrational fury of each. And indeed although a last lot had twisted away the dignity of the conquered, he had not completely destroyed their respect. And so gradually their hands were withdrawn, their swords were sheathed, however their purpose persisted.

When he saw himself to be held alone beset by many, he thought that by some chance or plan he should reduce the number of those opposing (him).

‘Let us commit,’ he said, ‘the order of dying to a lottery, so that no one withdraws himself, since the lottery applies to all. The agreement of a lottery of this sort is, that he who will die by chance will be killed by him who follows.’ And therefore it was that the lottery adjudged each to death, not his own will. ‘Let each stand therefore beneath the lottery as the judge without sin and free from captivity, so that he does not quicken his future death by the decision of another or avoid it by his own. No one will be able to refuse the outcome, which either chance will have inflicted or the will of god will have designated.’ An offering established faith and the agreement of everybody assented to the lottery. Each was chosen by chance, he provided death to the man following.

‘And so it happened that all the rest having (been) killed, Josephus with one other remained for death. It necessarily remained that he would either be condemned by the lottery, or certainly if he should survive the slaughter he would be defiled by the blood of a comrade.

He proposes that they should reject the lottery.

Thus he escaped a domestic fight and by Nicanor [p. 221] was escorted to Vespasian.

There was a rush to the sight of his coming almost all the Romans assembling together. Some wished to see him killed, whom shortly before they saw in charge of great affairs in a position of the greatest honor, others struggled to mock the captive, others marveled at such different and changeable turns of human events. Most prudently sighed, who thought that in other circumstances the same thing could happen to them. Titus in view of all the rest was moved by an innate gentleness of spirit, him for so long a proud fighter, suddenly sentenced to the power of the enemy, to await the lottery of an alien nod the shipwreck of life banished from hope uncertain of safety. To exert such great influence in battles, so that in a short time by chance he renders unequal to himself, when the powerful are either thrown out or overthrown are released. And so the better part of them, namely those in positions of honor, give the gentler counsel. Titus was for Josephus, before his father, the greatest portion of his safety. Vespasian ordered him to be kept in custody, lest by chance he should escape.”

3)  I have not been able to obtain either a legible copy of, or modern language translation of the 4th or 5th Century Latin translation of “Jewish War” attributed to Rufinus.  Therefore, I am unable to compare the Latin translation of the passages about Josephus’ surrender to the standard Greek version.

4)  The Josippon (Part III, Leonard Zoll, Dissertation for Master of Arts in Hebrew Literature,, Hebrew Union College, NY, NY,  1965, P 41), a Hebrew recension of Jewish War, with strong affinities to PsuedoHegisippus.

In this text Josephus survives the death lottery by acting deceitfully ([3]).

After the fall of Jotapata to the Romans, Josephus hid in an underground cistern with a large group of his compatriots.  Josephus tried to persuade them not to commit suicide, and instead surrender to the Romans.  The text is inconsistent or corrupt since it has the men stab themselves in the bowels before Josephus makes his speech, and their assent to the lottery driven suicide pact, even though they have apparently already stabbed themselves.

“But the people who were with Josephus during his lengthy comments to them, when he stretched forth his hands to heaven, did not continue listening to him, for they sought to die.

When Josephus saw that he had lost their attention, that it was of no avail, he spoke to them deceitfully, “If you seek death by the sword, it is proper for you to die by lot.  You shall select two, who shall cast lots, and the man to whom the lot falls shall slay his brother with the sword.  And so shall we do until we all perish.  We shall die together, and we shall not witness the disgrace of the Temple of out God, and the exile of our people.”

And the men did as he said.  Two men stood and cast lots before Josephus, and when the lot fell, the one slew the other.

And thus did they, until they all fell by the sword, and none remained except Josephus and one man.

And then this man said to him, “Come let us cast lots, even we, so that we may join our brothers.”

But Josephus replied to his comrade, cajoling him, “why should we impune our souls?  For if I kill you, I shall be considered a murderer, and if you kill me you also shall be considered a murderer, and we shall have destroyed our hope for the future from the Lord, our God, for all these people died without propriety”.

When the man heard Josephus’ words, he did respond to him for he was afraid of him, and in this way was Josephus saved from his comrade’s sword.

At that time, Nicanor, the general arrived. Josephus and his comrade surrendered and they were sent to Vespasian.  When the Roman army saw Josephus they were excited, and sounded the trumpets with a great blast.  Throughout the camp here was great joy because of his capture.  They said to each other, “Out eyes have seen our enemy.”

But throughout the country there was bitter mourning, for they said, “Was this not the most famous warrior in the Jewish army as well as the Roman?  Who instilled his fear in the entire Roman army? And there was heard throughout the land the question, “How was he captured? How was this war-hoer and great general seized??” “And we, what shall we do if a man like this is captured in his own land; in the midst of his own people and his kinsmen? How shall we survive in a strange land?”

But Titus, son of Vespasian, began joking, and tossed his head and said, ”Who knows whether we will be captured as we captured Josephus, the great general, ad expert warrior in battle? Therefore, let us spare his from death by sword?” Afterward, Vespasian and his entire force marched from there and went to Acco.”

(In this text, Josephus does not make any prophecies about Vespasian becoming the emperor.  In the Jewish tradition, this prediction was made by Johanan ben Zakkai, during the siege of Jerusalem.  This is an anachronism, since Vespasian had already departed Judea, by the time of the Siege of Jerusalem.  See Appendix 2, the Talmud version of the prediction)

5) From the Slavonic version of Josephus’ Jewish War.

In this text, the woman who revealed Josephus location to the Romans did not willingly betray him.   She revealed his location after the Romans had tortured her.

Vespasian was not impressed by Josephus prophesy at the time it was made.  It was not until his installation as Emperor that he realized that Josephus prediction had come true.  In this version of the text, Josephus’ prophecy was not used as a Flavian policy making tool.

As in the Greek version of Jewish War, Josephus, after the fall of Jotapata, hid from the Romans in an underground chamber with 40 other men.

The Roman’s captured a woman and tortured her until she revealed Josephus’ hiding place.  The Romans then tried to force the men out of their bunker.  Josephus’ compatriots threatened their former commander when he attempted to dissuade them from committing suicide.

“386And still revering, their commander as if in battle line and feeling ashamed, none laid hands on him. 387Then he, trusting his safety to God, his protector, said 388”since God has willed us to die, let us kill ourselves by the count. The one on whom the end of the count falls, let him be killed by the next”. Having said this, he counted the numbers with cunning, and thus misled them all; 390And all were killed by each other, 391except one. And he anxious not to stain his hand with the blood of a fellow countryman, persuaded him and both came out alive. They took him to Vespasian and all the Romans ran to see the spectacle. 393There were various cries, some were pleased with Josephus’s capture; others were threatening;

394others demanded that the enemy be punished and killed, others marveled at the vicissitudes of life.

( text ommitted for brevity)

398Vespasian gave orders to secure him and send him to Nero.

[Josephus predicts Vespasian will become emperor.] …

And Vespasian did not believe him, considering that Josephus had made this speech thinking about his own safety.  But afterwards he began somehow to believe him, when God was installing him as Caesar and handing him the emperor’s scepter.”

(Josephus said that he had predicted that Jotapata would fall in 47 days and that he would be captured.)

From: Josephus’ Jewish war and its Slavonic version: a synoptic comparison of the English translation by H. St. J. Thackeray with the critical edition by N.A. Meščerskij of the Slavonic version in the Vilna manuscript translated into English by H. Leeming and L. Osinkina. Brill 2003, p.370 et seq.

6)  From Jacques de Voraigne “The Golden Legend”, Book 67: Saint James the Apostle.

This version has Josephus determine the order the lots were drawn in order to insure his ultimate survival.  He used his strength and agility to overcome the last man standing and thus bring the selection process to an end.  This version also had elements of the Veronica legend, and the “Avenging the Savior” legend incorporated into it.

A relic of Jesus was used to cure Vespasian of an infestation of his nasal worms.  Then,

“Vespasian then went to Rome and obtained Tiberius Caesar’s permission to destroy Jerusalem and Judea.  For years during the reign of Nero, when the Jews were rebelling against the empire, he built up several armies: hence (according to the chronicles) he was acting not out of zeal for Christ but because the Jews were renouncing Roman rule. Vespasian then marched upon Jerusalem with a huge force, and on the day of the Pasch laid siege to the city and trapped the innumerable multitude gathered there for the festal day. Sometime before Vespasian’s arrival the Christian faithful who were in Jerusalem had been warned by the Holy Spirit to leave the city and take refuge in a town called Pella, across the Jordan. Thus, with all her holy men withdrawn, Jerusalem became the place where the vengeance of heaven fell, upon the sacrilegious city and its criminal people.

The Roman’s first assault, however, was against a town of Judea called Jonapata, in which Josephus was both leader and ruler, and he and his people put up a brave resistance, but at length Josephus, seeing that the city’s fall was inevitable, took eleven Jews ([4]) with him and sought safety in an underground room.  After four days without food his associates, though Josephus disagreed, preferred to die there rather than submit to servitude under Vespasian.  They wanted to kill each other and offer their blood in sacrifice to God; and, since Josephus held first rank among them, they thought he should be the first to die, so that by the shedding of his blood God would be the sooner placated.  Or (as another chronicle had it) they wanted to kill each other so as not to fall into the hands of the Romans.


Now Josephus, being a prudent man and not wanting to die, appointed himself arbiter of death and sacrifice, and ordered the others to cast lots, two by two, to determine which of each pair would put the other to death, The lots were cast and one man after the other was consigned to death, until the last one was left to draw lots with Josephus. Then Josephus, who was a strong, agile man, took the other man’s sword away from him, asked him which he preferred life or death, and ordered him not to waste time choosing. The man, afraid, answered, promptly: ”I do not refuse to live, if by your favor I am able to save my life.”


Josephus now had a talk in hiding with an intimate of Vespasian with whom he himself was on friendly terms: he requested that his life be spared by Vespasian and what he requested he obtained. He was taken before Vespasian, who said to him: “You would have deserved death, if this man’s petition has not secured your freedom!” Josephus [said]: “if anything wrong has been done, it can be set right!” Vespasian: “What can a conquered man do?” Josephus: “I will be able to do something, if what I say wins me a favorable hearing.” Vespasian: “It is granted that you may say what you have to say, and if there is any good in it, it will be listened to quietly.” Josephus; “The Roman emperor [Nero] has died, and the Senate has made you emperor!” Vespasian:  If you are a prophet, why did you not prophesy to this city that it was about to fall under my sway?” Josephus: “I foretold it publicly for forty days!”

Shortly thereafter legates arrived from Rome, affirmed that Vespasian had indeed been elevated to the imperial throne, and took him off to Rome.  Eusebius, too, states in his chronicle that Josephus prophesied to Vespasian both about the emperor’s death and about his own elevation.”

Vespasian left his son Titus in charge of the siege of Jerusalem.

Josephus cured Titus of a paralysis of his leg([5]).

Appendix 2:

Different Versions of the Prophecy About Vespasian Becoming the Emperor.

1)  From Suetonius, The 12 Caesars: Vespasian, 10:

“5 There had spread over all the Orient an old and established belief, that it was fated at that time for men coming from Judaea to rule the world. This prediction, referring to the emperor of Rome, as afterwards appeared from the event, the people of Judaea took to themselves; accordingly they revolted and after killing their governor, they routed the consular ruler of Syria as well, when he came to the rescue, and took one of his eagles. Since to put down this rebellion required a considerable army with a leader of no little enterprise, yet one to whom so great power could be entrusted without risk, Vespasian was chosen for the task, both as a man of tried energy and as one in no wise to be feared because of the obscurity of his family and name.


6 When he consulted the oracle of the god of Carmel in Judaea, the lots were highly encouraging, promising that whatever he planned or wished, however great it might be, would come to pass; and one of his high-born prisoners, Josephus by name, as he was being put in chains, declared most confidently that he would soon be released by the same man, who would then, however, be emperor.

2)  Tacitus (Instead of Josephus, a priest at Mt Carmel named Basilides predicted that Vespasian would be Emperor.):

“Nor was Vespasian uninfluenced by such superstitions. In later days, when he was master of the world, he made no secret of keeping an astrologer called Selucus to help him by his advice and prophecy.  …

On the frontier of Judea and Syria lies a hill called Carmel.  A god of the same name is there worshipped according to ancient ritual.  There is no image or temple, only an altar where they reverently worship.  Once when Vespasian was sacrificing on this altar, brooding on his secret ambition, the priest, Basilides, after repeatedly inspecting the omens said to him: Whatever it is which you have in mind Vespasian, whether it is to build a house or to enlarge your estate, or to increase the number of your slaves, there is granted to you a great habitation, vast acre and a multitude of men.” (Tacitus, Histories 2.78)

The majority [of the Jews] were convinced that the ancient scriptures of their priests alluded to the present as the very time when the Orient would triumph and from Judaea would go forth men destined to rule the world. This mysterious prophecy really referred to Vespasian and Titus, but the common people, true to the selfish ambitions of mankind, thought that this exalted destiny was reserved for them, and not even their calamities opened their eyes to the truth.

(Tacitus, Histories 5.13)”

3)  Cassius Dio, From Epitome of Book LXV: (Roman History by Cassius Dio, published in Vol. VIII of the Loeb Classical Library edition, 1925)

“These portents needed interpretation; 4 but not so the saying of a Jew named Josephus: he, having earlier been captured by p261Vespasian and imprisoned, laughed and said: ”You may imprison me now, but a year from now, when you have become emperor, you will release me.”

4) From Bar Hebraeus (1226-1286), Bar Hebraeus’Chronography VIII, The Roman Emperors.

After CLAUDIUS CAESAR, NERO CAESAR [reigned] fourteen years. He sent FESTUS and dismissed FELIX. And he was the first one who set up the persecution of the Christians in which PETER and PAUL testified in ROME and were crowned (i.e. suffered martyrdom). In the thirteenth year of NERO the JEWS rebelled, and NERO sent [against them] VESPASIAN and TITUS his son. And in one year, in the month of HAZIRAN (JUNE), TITUS captured the city of YOTOPATA (IOTOPATA) because he heard that JOSEPHUS, the scribe, the son of MATTAI the priest, who was the captain of the host of the JEWS, was there. And when he was taken he prophesied concerning the death of [50] NERO and who was going to reign after him. Therefore TITUS did not kill him. Now this JOSEPHUS was not KAYAFA (CAIAPHAS), as some men have thought, for CAIAPHAS was also called JOSEPHUS.

And after these things the ROMANS encircled JERUSALEM, and whilst VESPASIAN was occupied in the war against JERUSALEM, the report of the death of NERO arrived, and of the tyrant OTHO, who stood for three months, and he killed him, and of VITALLIANUS, the tyrant, who stood for eight months. Him the ROMANS slew in the middle of the city. Then the Roman troops who were with VESPASIAN proclaimed him king, and he committed the war against JERUSALEM to TITUS his son, who went to ALEXANDRIA and subjugated it, and [then] departed by sea to ROME.

(From Bar Hebraeus’ Chronography, Translated from Syriac, by E. A. Wallis Budge, London, 1932.)

5)  The Talmud.

According to the Talmud it was not Josephus, but Rabbi Yohanan who made an anachronistic appearance to Vespasian (according to other accounts, by the time of the siege of Jerusalem, Vespasian had already left Judea for Rome,  leaving the management of the siege of Jerusalem to his son Titus, and his aide Tiberius Alexander.

Rabbi Yohanan escaped from Jerusalem in a coffin carried by his disciples.

“The disciples continued to carry the coffin until they got to Vespasian.  When they opened the coffin R. Yohanan stood up before him and said, “Peace to you, O King! Peace be to you, O King.!” Vespasian replied, “your life is forfeit on two counts.  To begin with you call me king and I am not a king. Moreover, if I am a king, why did you not come to me until now?” R. Yohanan replied, ”As for your saying that you are not a king, you are in fact a king,  If you were not a king, Jerusalem would not be delivered into your hand, for it is written, “And Lebanon shall fall by the mighty one”(Isa., 10:34), and the epithet “mighty one” is applied only to a king.  As for your question, “If I am a king, why did you not come to me till now?”- the Zealots amount us did not let me”.  Vespasian asked. “If there is a jar of honey around which a draco is coiled, would not the jar be broken to get rid of the draco?”  R Yohanan did not respond.

(From The Book of Legends, Sefer Ha-Aggadah, Legends from the Talmud, Edited by Hayim Nahman Bialik and Yehoshua Hana Ravnitzky.  Translated by William G. Braude. Schocken Books, 1992, p. 191-192.)

6) The Sibylline Oracles (c. 1st to 3rd century C.E.):

Sibylline Oracles 3:652-656:

”And then God will send a King from the sun who will stop the entire earth from evil war, killing some, imposing oaths of loyalty on others; and he will not do all these things by his private plans but in obedience to the noble teachings of the great God.

Sibylline Oracles 4 (A prophesy ex ventu about the death of Nero, the appearence of false Neros or a Nero redivius ([6]), and Vespasian’s, Rome’s foremost man or future emperor destruction of Jerusalem) :

…  ; and there shall also come
150 To Solyma an evil blast of war
From Italy, and God’s great temple spoil.
But when these, trusting folly, shall cast off
Their piety and murders consummate
Around the temple, then front Italy
155 A mighty king shall like a runaway slave
Flee over the Euphrates’ stream unseen,

Unknown, who shall some time dare loathsome guilt
Of matricide, and many other things,
Having confidence in his most wicked hands.
160 And many for the throne with blood
Rome’s soil while he flees over Parthian land.
And out of Syria shall come Rome’s foremost man,
Who having burned the temple of Solyma,
And having slaughtered many of the Jews,
165 Shall (bring) destruction on their great broad land.

(From:  The Sybylline Oracles Translated from the Greek into English Blank Verse by Milton S. Terry,1899.)

150. Solyma.–That is, Jerusalem.

155. Mighty king.–Nero, whose murder of his mother is notorious, and whose flight beyond the Euphrates and expected return as antichrist was a superstitious tradition long maintained.]

[1]) Life of Flavius Josephus, 76 (422 et seq.)

[2])   *  ( XVI.”’Now the great downfall of the Jewish name is tested, now the bitter ashes, which submerge and hide the teaching of our splendid lineage and undermine every distinction, when Josephus a captive is ordered to be saved for the triumph. What do such solicitous inducements of the enemy suddenly wish for themselves? What of this voluntary offer of safety? They did not spare others seeking life: Josephus is sought out, Josephus is asked that he should live. They fear evidently that they may lose the pomp of a triumph, lest he should be wanting, whom Rome would see a captive, whom in chains Vespasian would direct before his chariot. You wish therefore to be saved for this spectacle? And from what will they triumph, if their leader will be lacking that over which the triumph is celebrated? Or what sort of triumph, if an alliance is given to the conquered? Do not believe, Josephus, life is promised you, but worse things than death are being prepared. Roman arms conquered you, do not let deceit capture you. [p. 211] Their gifts are more heinous than wounds, the former threaten servitude, the latter save freedom. You are bowing, Joseph, and broken by a certain weakness of spirit you wish to be a survivor of your country? Where is the teaching of Moses, who sought to be erased from the divine book that he might not outlive the people of the lord? Where is Aaron, who stood in the middle between the living and the dead, so that death should not destroy a living people with a cruel contagion? Where is the spirit devoted to their country of King Saul and Ionathas, and that death bravely borne for the citizens, gloriously received? The son encouraged the father by example, the father did not forsake the son in the purpose of death, who although he was able to live, preferred himself to be killed rather than to be triumphed over by the enemy. He encouraged his weapon bearer saying: Strike me lest these uncircumcised should come and strike me and make sport of me. Because his weapon bearer feared to do this, he transfixed himself with his sword, worthy whom that David in a prophetic spirit would vindicate, because Amalechita had boasted falsely about the manner of his death and had thought to diminish the renown of the man who had saved himself from the enemy, he lied that he had been killed by himself  6, worthy whom that even such a great prophet should praise saying: Saul and Ionathas beautiful and beloved inseparables in their life and in death they were not separated, lighter than eagles, more powerful than lions. David himself also when he saw his people struck by an angel, wished to draw the heavenly vengeance upon himself lest he should be spared with the people perishing. Finally what of the divine law, whose interpreter you have always been, which promised everlasting immortality to the righteous instead of this brief life? When the god of the Hebrews, who teaches the righteous to have contempt for death, [p. 212] to owe it even to escape this earthly dwelling place, to fly back to the heavenly, to that region of paradise where god consecrates pious souls? Now finally you wish, Josephus, to live, when it is not fitting, indeed not permitted, what indeed is more important it is not proper? And you want to snatch at that life, I dare to say, of slavery which is in another’s power? So that a Roman may snatch it away when he wishes? May throw into the dark corner of a prison when he wishes? And you would choose to flee from here and not be allowed to die? And with shame you go to them, from those whom you persuaded to die for their country? What excuse will you have that you have stayed so long? They are awaiting what you might do, they are certainly saying already: Why is Josephus delaying who ought to have come? Why does he come so tardily? Why is he refusing to imitate his followers whom he persuaded to die for freedom? We will permit certainly that you choose to serve a champion of freedom, but that you doom yourself a slave to the Romans, that you put bondage before freedom? But be it that you wish to live, how will you obtain this from them against whom you have fought so many times? How will they look upon you, with what eyes, with what feelings? How will you wish to live with angry masters even if it allowed? And who will not believe you to have been a traitor to your country, who will see to whom the reward of treason was paid? Choose whichever you may prefer, that it be one of these is necessary: your life will be the reward of treachery or the suffering of slavery.”

[3]) The Josephus Problem or Josephus Permutation.

In computer science and mathematics, the Josephus Problem (or Josephus permutation) is a theoretical problem related to a counting out game.

[4]) Other texts have him hiding with 40 other men.

[5] ) The Talmud contains a similar account of how R Johanan cured Vespasian’s swollen feet, after learning that he had been appointed Emperor.  The Book of Legends, Sefer Ha-Aggadah, Legends from the Talmud, Edited by Hayim Nahman Bialik and Yehoshua Hana Ravnitzky.  Translated by William G. Braude. Schocken Books, 1992, p. 191-192

[6])  There were astrologers and imposters who claimed Nero would or had returned from the dead:  Tacitus, II.8, Dio, LXVI.19.3, Suetonius, LVII.

The Reliability of Eusebius. Misrepresenting a Monument Celebrating an Imperial Conquest as an Artifact of Christian Faith

Tonight the tide is turning; the light will return after the darkest night on the northern hemisphere and then Christ of course is born. What could then be more suitable, than to publish a short essay by David Blocker on the trustworthiness of Church father Eusebius – who after all lived in the period when the winter solstice was associated with the Birth of Christ.

Over to David …

The Reliability of Eusebius.

Misrepresenting a Monument Celebrating an Imperial Conquest as an Artifact of Christian Faith

Eusebius Pamphili ([1]) is the source of much of our knowledge of the history of early Christianity.  It is necessary to ask if he was an accurate and unbiased reporter.

In at least one instance it can be demonstrated that Eusebius allowed his Christian beliefs to influence his description and interpretation of an object he recorded for posterity in his Ecclesiastical History.

Eusebius stated that there was a statue of a man and a kneeling woman in Caesarea Philippi ([2]).  The existence of the statue was confirmed by three other ancient authors ([3]).  The statue was in a state of disrepair when it was first noted in ancient chronicles.  It was later moved into the sanctuary of a church in Caesarea Philippi and was finally destroyed at the order of the Emperor Julian ([4]).

The original description of the statue by Eusebius follows:

The Statue Which the Woman with an Issue of Blood Erected.

Since I have mentioned this city ([5]) I do not think it proper to omit an account which is worthy of record for posterity.  For they say that the woman with an issue of blood, who, as we learn from the sacred Gospel ([6]), received from our Saviour deliverance from her affliction, came from this place, and that her house is shown in the city, and that remarkable memorials of the kindness of the Saviour to her remain there.  For there stands upon an elevated stone, by the gates of her house, a brazen image of a woman kneeling, with her hands stretched out, as if she were praying.  Opposite this is another upright image of a man made of the same material, clothed decently in a double cloak extending his hand toward the woman ([7]).  At his feet, beside the statue itself, is a certain strange plant, which climbs up to the hem of the brazen cloak, and is a remedy for all kinds of diseases.  They say that this is an image of Jesus.  It has remained to our day, so that we ourselves also saw it when we were staying in the city ([8]) ([9]).

Eusebius stated that the statue was of Jesus and the hemorrhaging woman, when in fact the statue was of Hadrian in the Judea Capta style ([10]). The principle figure was the bearded Emperor Hadrian dressed in a Roman toga, accepting the submission of a female figure representing Judea.

Similar imagery had appeared on the coinage Hadrian had issued to commemorate his tour of other provinces ([11]).

The coins that celebrated his arrival or “Advent” in a province, showed Hadrian accepting the greetings of a standing female figure.

The coins issued after his departure commemorated his legislation that benefited or “Restored” the province.  They showed a standing Hadrian accepting the gratitude of a kneeling female figure, who usually held an object associated with the province.  Most of the coins showed the kneeling figure as resting on one knee.  In the case of Judea, the female figure representing the province held palm branches and was accompanied by additional figures of small children.  No other coins issued by Hadrian had the Provincial figure attended by children.  The children probably represented either the regrowth of Judea following the devastation of the First Jewish Revolt, or were symbolic of a new generation of Judeans loyal to Rome.

Examples of Hadrian’s coins are shown below. Note that the image of Hadrian and the female symbol of the Province closely resemble Eusebius’ description of the statuary group that stood in Caesarea Philippi.

Hadrian Restitutor Phrygia

Hadrian Restitutor Hispanae

Hadrian Advent Ivdea

The second Jewish revolt is though to have occurred between the issuing of the first or “Advent” set of coins, and what would have been the second or “Restoration” issue of coins.  This made the kneeling figure of Judea represent “Judea Capta” ([12]) rather than a Judea offering her thanks for Hadrian’s visit and his generosity.  The coins of Hadrian with the kneeling Judea lack the word “restore” which was present on the coins issued in other provinces.  This suggests the Judea figure was kneeling not in gratitude, but in submission and defeat.

Hadrian’s Judea Coinage, Advent and the Restitutor Type without a caption ([13]).

The statue as described by Eusebius, was clearly a statue commemorating the Roman subjugation of the rebellious Judeans.  It showed Hadrian looming over the conquered figure of Judea.

Furthermore, Eusebius was also credulous enough to assign miraculous qualities to a plant that was supposedly growing on the statue. One has to wonder if there was an actual plant growing on the statue, or if Eusebius was fancifully describing the carved palm branches, that were also represented on Hadrian’s Judea coins.

Eusebius concluded that a statue of the Emperor accepting Judea’s submission following the brutal subjugation of the Second Jewish Revolt, was actually a statue of Jesus performing a miracle.

He also stated that the statue had miraculous healing properties.

One has to ask if Eusebius was merely credulous and unquestioningly accepted everything he was told by his sources, or if he consciously or unconsciously assigned a Christian significance to what he saw.  One has to ask if Eusebius was deliberately trying to mislead his readers into believing that that he had actually seen a bronze statue of Jesus in Caesarea Philippi.

The fact that Eusebius did misrepresent a statue of a Roman Emperor as a statue of Jesus means that his accuracy, reliability and possibly honesty as a historian is suspect.  Other assertions he made in Ecclesiastical History must be carefully assessed before they can be accepted as the unvarnished truth.

David Blocker 2011/12

[1] Eusebius of Caesarea (c. AD 263 – 339) also called Eusebius Pamphili, was a Christian polemicist.  He became the Bishop of Caesarea about the year 314.  He wrote several works including the Ecclesiastical History, a pious account of the first 300 years of the Christian Church.  He was a supporter and a favorite of the Emperor Constantine.

[2] Eusebius, H. E. vii, 18.

[3] Sozomen (H.E. v. 21);  Philostorgius (Hist. Eccl. vii.21);  Asterius of Amasea (Conc. Nic. II,  Labbe, vii 210), in A Dictionary of Christian Antiquities, William Smith and Samuel Cheetham, editors, Little, Brown and Company, Boston, p878, 1875.

[4] Ibid.

[5] Caesarea Philippi (Banius).

[6] Matthew xi 20

[7] “…On a tall stone base at the gates of her house stood a bronze statue of a woman, resting on one knee and resembling a suppliant with arms outstretched.  Facing this was another of the same material, an upright figure of a man with a double cloak neatly draped over his shoulders and his hand stretched out to the woman.”  From Eusebius, History of the Church, translated by G.A. Williamson, Dorset Press by arrangement with Penguin Books, 1984, p.302.  This translation depicts a statue that even more closely resembles the image on Hadrian’s coins, than does the older Schaff/Wace translation given in the body of the text.

[8] Eusebius, Ecclesiastical History  vii, 18; from, A Select Library of Nicene and Post Nicene fathers of the Christian Church, Second Series, Philip Schaff and Henry Wace, Volume 1, Eusebius, Church History, p 304.

[9] Note that even though this is but a very short translated excerpt from the writings of Eusebius Pamphili, it contains at least two phrases: “think it proper” and “remain to our day” that have analogues in the so-called Testimonium Flavianum (Flavius Josephus, Antiquities of the Jews, 18.3): “think it proper” /”if it be lawful”, and “remain to our day” /“are not extinct at this day”.

[10] “Judging by the analogy of many coins, the memorial had been erected in honor of an emperor (probably Hadrian), and falsely interpreted by the Christians, perhaps on account of a σωτῆρι  (soter/Saviour) or θεῷ (theos/god) appearing in the inscription.  There can be no doubt of Eusebius’ honesty in the matter, but no less doubt that the statue commemorated something quite different from that which Christian tradition claimed.”  Gieseler, Eccles. Histo.. Harpers ed. 1.p. 70, from footnote on p.304 of A Select Library of Nicene and Post Nicene Fathers of the Christian Church, Second Series, Philip Schaff and Henry Wace, Volume 1, Eusebius, Church History.

[11] Larry J. Kreitzer, Striking New Images, Roman Imperial Coinage and the New Testament World,  Sheffield Academic Press, 1996.  See descriptions of Flavian “Judea Capta”coins, and Hadrian’s coins showing grateful provinces accepting his rulings.

[12] The 1st century Flavian dynasty had issued a set of Judea Capta coins which celebrated their victory over Judea in the First Jewish   Revolt (66-72 C.E.). These coins typically showed an armored Roman standing over a cowering or dejected female figure of Judea.

[13] Image from Larry J. Kreitzer, Striking New Images, Roman Imperial Coinage and the New Testament World,  Sheffield Academic Press, 1996, p.176.

Dating the Birth of Jesus: What is truth? Irreconcilable Traditions, Myths, Legends and “Facts”.

A Guest Post by David Blocker

The traditionally accepted year of Jesus’ birth, “1” AD, was estimated by Dionysius Exiguus (died c. 544), (The Catholic Encyclopedia, Volume V. Published 1909. New York: Robert Appleton Company. Nihil Obstat, May 1, 1909. Remy Lafort, Censor. Imprimatur. +John M. Farley, Archbishop of New York) who had to work from limited and perhaps inaccurate sources.

The year 4 BCE, accepted by traditional scholars, was chosen in order to reconcile the birth narrative in the Gospel of Matthew (Matthew 2:1 (NIV), “After Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the time of King Herod … ”) with the chronology found in the histories of Flavius Josephus.  4 BCE was the last year that the birth of Jesus could have occurred during the life time of Herod the Great.  Herod the Great died in 4 BCE (Flavius Josephus, Antiquities; Jewish War I.xxxiii.5-9.) and the War of Varus, a Judean uprising against the Romans and their representatives, began shortly thereafter (Antiquities XVII.x).

The time of Jesus’ birth given by the Gospel of Matthew conflicts with the time of birth given by the Gospel of Luke.

The Gospel of Luke does not associate Herod with Jesus’ birth.  Instead the birth of Jesus was linked to a Roman census (Luke 2:1 (NIV), “In those days Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world.  2(This was the first census that took place while Quirinius was governor of Syria.”).

The only Roman census of Judea from this time period of which we have a record occurred in 6 or 7 CE, after the Romans had assumed direct control over Judea (Flavius Josephus, Antiquities of the Jews, Book 17.13. 5).  The purpose of the census was to allow the Romans to determine the taxable resources of Judea.

The birth narrative chronologies presented by the canonical gospels are contradictory and cannot be reconciled.  According to the Gospel of Matthew Jesus was born while Herod the Great was alive and ruled Judea.  According to the Gospel of Luke the birth of Jesus occurred after the death of Herod, when the Romans were consolidating their control over Judea.  Driven by theological constraints, Dionysius’ attempt to date Jesus’ birth, can be considered, at best, to be an act of pious self-deception.

The two canonical gospel accounts of Jesus birth cannot be simultaneously true.  One or the other, or both, must be in error.

Both of the Gospel birth narratives fail to mention the unrest in Judea during the two time periods they assigned to Jesus’ birth.  The time of birth given by the Gospel of Matthew occurred just before the War of Varus.  The 7 CE Roman census to determine the taxable resources of Judea, inspired Judas the Galilean and his colleague Zadok to campaign against the Roman occupation of their country (Flavius Josephus, Jewish War 2.8.1, “118 Under him (Coponius, procurator of Judea) a Galilean named Judas incited his people to rebel, calling them cowards if they paid tax to the Romans and let themselves be ruled by mortal men, having formerly served God alone.”).

There are early non-canonical sources that provide a date for the birth of Jesus.  The majority of them place the year of Jesus’ birth around 3 to 2 BCE.  Therefore, Jesus was conceived, near at the beginning of the War of Varus.

Early sources which give a date for Jesus’ birth at variance with the traditional 4 BCE date are listed below:

CLEMENT OF ALEXANDRIA (ca. 194 AD) (Stromata, Book 1, Chapter XXI)  “from the birth of Christ to the death of Commodus (December 30/January 1, 192/3) there were 194 years, one month, and 13 days.”  Clement implies that Jesus was born on 18 NOVEMBER, 3 BC

CLEMENT OF ALEXANDRIA: “Our Lord was born in the twenty-eighth year, when the first census was ordered to be taken in the reign of Augustus.” (Stromata, Book 1, see Clark’s edition, pages 444-445).  Clement, since he lived in Egypt, reckoned the sole reign of Augustus from the death of Cleopatra, and so gives the twenty-eighth year instead of the forty-first. This gives a birth year of 3/2 BCE.

IRENAEUS, about AD 180, wrote ‘Our Lord was born about the forty-first year of the reign of Augustus.’ (3/2 BCE).  (Against Heresies, Book III, Chapter 21.3)

TERTULLIAN wrote, ‘When Augustus had been reigning for twenty-eight years after the death of Cleopatra, Christ was born, and the same Augustus survived after Christ was born fifteen years; and the remaining times of years to the day of the birth of Christ bring us to the forty-first year, which is the 28th of Augustus after the death of Cleopatra.’ (Answer to the Jews, Chapter VIII)

Antony and Cleopatra committed suicide in August 30 BC.  This places the birth of in the forty-first year of Augustus, which is 3/2 BCE.

JULIUS AFRICANUS assigned 3/2 BCE as the year of Jesus’ birth (Jack Finegan, Handbook of Biblical Chronology, Hendrickson, 1998 ed., §§ 284-290, pp. 154-157)

HIPPOLYTUS of Rome (AD 170-236) – placed the birth of Christ in 2 BC.  (Jack Finegan, Handbook of Biblical Chronology, (Hendrickson, 1998 ed.) §§ 293, pp. 158-160).

ORIGEN (AD 185-253) – In a fragment of Origen’s homilies on Luke, he states that Jesus was born in the forty-first year of Augustus, that Augustus ruled in all fifty-six years, and that there remained to his rule from and after Christ’s birth fifteen years. (Frag. 82 on Luke 3:1).  This translates to 3/2 BC

EUSEBIUS, The History of the Church I. 5: ”It was the forty-second year of Augustus’ reign, and the twenty-eighth after the subjugation of Egypt and the deaths of Antony and Cleopatra, the last of the Ptolemaic rulers of Egypt, when our Saviour and Lord, Jesus Christ, at the time of the first registration, while Quirinius was governor of Syria… was born in Bethlehem in Judaea.” (2 BC by Augustus’ reign year and the deaths of Antony and Cleopatra.  This cannot be reconciled with Quirinius’ census, showing that Eusebius writings cannot be accepted uncritically).

EPIPHANIUS, agreed with Eusebius that Augustus reigned fifty-six years and six months, and wrote that Jesus was born in the 42nd year of Augustus reign which would have been 2 BC  (Panarion, XX, ii).

EPIPHANIUS elsewhere dates the Epiphany of Christ in official Roman terms, saying that it was in January of the year in which the consuls were Octavius for the thirteenth time, and Silvanus (Augusto XIII et Silvano); this was January, 2 BC (Panarion, LI, xxii, 3).  By Epiphany, he probably meant the conception at the time of the Annunciation by the angel to Mary, which is nine months before the actual birth (Jack Finegan, Handbook of Biblical Chronology, Hendrickson, 1998 ed., §§ 493, p. 289).

PAULUS OROSIUS stated that Christ was born in the seven hundred and fifty-second year from the founding of Rome.  752 A.U.C. is 2 BCE (Seven Books of History Against the Pagans, trans. Roy J. Defarri; FC 50; Washington D.C. Catholic Univ. of America Press, 1964, pp. 280-281).  (Jack Finegan, Handbook of Biblical Chronology, Hendrickson, 1998 ed. §§ 497, p. 290.)

CASSIODORUS (490-585 CE) placed the birth of Christ in the consulship of Lentulus and M. Messala (Lentulo et Messalino), stating “When these were consuls, our Lord Jesus Christ the Son of God was born in Bethlehem in the forty-first year of the reign of Augustus” or 3 BC (Jack Finegan, Handbook of Biblical Chronology (Hendrickson, 1998 ed. §§ 498, p. 290).

GREGORY OF TOURS (d.594 CE), History of the Franks 1.19: “in the forty fourth year of the reign of Augustus, our Lord….was born.” About 1 BCE.

“EURIPTUS, disciple of John”: “1, 1 In the forty-second year of the reign of Augustus, after our Lord Jesus Christ was born according to the flesh in Bethlehem of Judea, Herod Antipatris (son of Antipater?), king of Judea, sought to kill Jesus.”  (From The Beheading of John by Euriptus, the disciple of John. Geerard’s CANT (180; BHG 831-833). Translated from: A. Vassiliev, Anecdota graeco-byzantina, I, (Moscow: Universitatis Caesareae, 1893), pp. 1-4, based on Montis Casin. 277 (11th c.).  (Other manuscripts containing this text are Vat. gr. 1192 (15th c.), and Vat. gr. 1989 (12th c.)).  Translation and internet posting by Tony Burke, Associate Professor, Dept. of the Humanities, Faculty of Liberal and Professional Studies, York University.  Text downloaded from: on 06/2011.

Augustus was named Julius Caesar’s heir in 44 BCE.  The 42nd year of Augustus would be 2 BCE.

The birthday of Ceasar Augustus and the traditional birthday of Jesus occur at the same time of the year.  According to Suetonius (b. ca 69/75- d. after 130), ” From that time on Augustus had such faith in his destiny, that he made his horoscope public and issued a silver coin stamped with the sign of the constellation Capricornus ( Approximately Dec.-Jan.), under which he was born.”  (From Suetonius, The Twelve Ceasars, The Divine Augustus, 94.)

When attempting to determine the year of Jesus’ birth one has a large number of sources from which to choose.  The Gospel of Matthew states that Jesus was born before Herod the Great died (before 4 BCE).  According to the Gospel of Luke, Jesus was born after the death of Herod, after the Romans had directly annexed Judea and were preparing to apply direct taxation to it, approximately 6 to 7 CE.

The traditionally accepted date of 4 BCE was decided upon by a 6th century CE monk who was trying to find a theologically acceptable reconciliation of his sources.

The preponderance of early writers place Jesus’ birth in the year 3/2 BCE, which is later than the traditional dating of 4 BCE (See Jack Finnegan, Handbook of Biblical Chronology, Revised Edition, Hendrickson Publishers, Peabody Mass., 1998, p. 279-291 for disscussion) and concurrent with the War of Varus.

The researcher is left with the task of trying to extract historical truth from a melange of unattributed reports, myths, legends and pious fictions.

David Blocker 2011/11/14

Overlaps between Secret Mark, the Raising of Lazarus in John, and the Gerasene Swine episode in Mark

This post is both in English and Swedish
Detta inlägg är på både engelska och svenska


David Blocker just wrote to me and said that he had seen my most recent post about Oxyrhynchus 5072 (Ett nytt evangelium påträffat?), and reminded me of a table he had sent me last month demonstrating similarities between the Secret Mark fragment quoted by Clement, the Raising of Lazarus episode in the Gospel of John, and the episode of the Gerasene Swine in the canonical Gospel of Mark.

I must consider this a preliminary presentation of findings, since David was working with translations and not the original Greek texts. Still I think this is interesting finding which deserves more study to evaluate its significance.

What is of particular interest is that Tony Burke had posted on his web site that the Fragment of the New Unknown Gospel from Oxyrhynchus unlike the canonical gospels, did not mention a legion of swine being used as a receptacle for the discarded demons.

I have been kind of busy lately (renovating the house), so I might as well publish David Blocker’s table. It shows that the section in Mark where Jesus drove the demons into the herd of swine does not (unlike the rest of the story) have any significant language or subject parallels in either the Secret Mark fragment or the episode of the Raising of Lazarus.

Does this confirm that the pigs are a later addition to the story, added after an original pigless story had been used as a model for other texts?  Was the story of the swine inserted into a preexistent Markan healing story that was somehow already related to the “raising Lazarus from the dead”-story in John and Secret Mark?

Since the Swine do not actually appear to have any overlap with the adjacent story of the possessed man, the story of the Swine appears to be another intercalation or at least addition. It seems like “Mark” had a collection of unconnected stories that he pasted together to create a single narrative. His literary techniques with intercalations and framing stories (i.e. putting some of his stores inside other stories instead of pasting them one after another) give us an idea of how freely he worked with his material.

David Blocker’s Table is presented beneath, but for a better view with all the parallels highlighted in different colours, I recommend the pdf-file at SM_JnLazarus_MkSwine


David Blocker skrev alldeles nyss till mig och sa att han hade sett mitt senaste inlägg om Oxyrhynchus 5072 (Ett nytt evangelium påträffat?), och påminde mig om en tabell som han skickade mig förra månaden och som pekar på vissa likheter mellan passagen ur Hemliga Markusevangeliet som Klemens citerar, episoden om uppväckandet av Lasaros i Johannesevangeliet, och berättelsen om grisarna i Gerasa i det kanoniska Markusevangeliet.

Jag betraktar detta som en preliminär presentation av materialet eftersom David Blocker har arbetat med översättningar och inte med den grekiska originaltexten. Jag anser trots detta att det är ett intressant fynd som förtjänar att studeras grundligare.

Det som är särskilt intressant är att Tony Burke på sin hemsida har skrivit att det nyidentifierade fragmentet från Oxyrhynchus av ett hittills okänt evangelium, till skillnad från de kanoniska evangelierna, inte nämner att en hjord av grisar används till att förvara en legion av fördrivna demoner.

Jag har varit rätt upptagen på sistone (med att renovera huset), så jag kan lika gärna publicera Davids Blockers tabell som den är. Den visar att det avsnitt i Markusevangeliet där Jesus fördriver demonerna in i grisarna (till skillnad från resten av berättelsen) inte har någon betydande vare sig språklig eller tematisk parallell till Hemliga Markusevangeliet eller Lazarosberättelsen i Johannesevangeliet.

Styrker detta att berättelsen om grisarna är ett senare tillägg till historien, tillagt efter att en ursprunglig berättelse utan grisar hade använts som modell för andra texter? Infogades historien om grisarna i en sedan tidigare existerande markinsk helandeberättelse som på något sätt redan stod i relation till berättelsen om uppväckandet av Lasaros i Johannesevangeliet och Hemliga Markusevangeliet?

Eftersom berättelsen om grisarna inte verkar gripa in den intilliggande berättelsen om den besatte mannen, förefaller berättelsen om grisarna vara ytterligare en interkalation eller åtminstone ett tillägg. Det verkar som om ”Markus” hade en samling osammanhängande berättelser som han fogade samman till en enda berättelse. Hans litterära tekniker med interkalationer och inramningsberättelser (det vill säga att infoga några av berättelserna i andra berättelser i stället för att foga dem efter varandra) ger oss en uppfattning om hur fritt han arbetat med sitt material.

Inunder återges David Blockers tabell, men för en tydligare återgivning med alla de relevanta parallellerna markerade i olika färger, rekommenderar jag pdf-filen på SM_JnLazarus_MkSwine

Secret Mark: from a Letter Attributed to Clement of Alexandria.  Morton Smith, Clement of Alexandria and a Secret Gospel of Mark (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1973). Raising of Lazarus: John 11:1-46, 12:1New International Version (NIV) Gerasene Swine: Mark 5:1-20 New International Version (NIV)
To you, therefore, I shall not hesitate to answer the questions you have asked, refuting the falsifications by the very words of the Gospel. For example, after ”And they were in the road going up to Jerusalem” and what follows, until ”After three days he shall arise”, the secret Gospel brings the following material word for word:
”And they come into Bethany. And a certain woman whose brother had died was there. 1 Now a man named Lazarus was sick. He was from Bethany, the village of Mary and her sister Martha. 5:1 They went across the lake to the region of the Gerasenes 2 When Jesus got out of the boat, a man with an impure spirit
2 (This Mary, whose brother Lazarus now lay sick, was the same one who poured perfume on the Lord and wiped his feet with her hair.) 3 So the sisters sent word to Jesus, “Lord, the one you love is sick.” 4 When he heard this, Jesus said, “This sickness will not end in death. No, it is for God’s glory so that God’s Son may be glorified through it.” 5 Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus. 6 So when he heard that Lazarus was sick, he stayed where he was two more days, 7 and then he said to his disciples, “Let us go back to Judea.” 8 “But Rabbi,” they said, “a short while ago the Jews there tried to stone you, and yet you are going back?” 9 Jesus answered, “Are there not twelve hours of daylight? Anyone who walks in the daytime will not stumble, for they see by this world’s light. 10 It is when a person walks at night that they stumble, for they have no light.” 11 After he had said this, he went on to tell them, “Our friend Lazarus has fallen asleep; but I am going there to wake him up.” 12 His disciples replied, “Lord, if he sleeps, he will get better.” 13 Jesus had been speaking of his death, but his disciples thought he meant natural sleep. 14 So then he told them plainly, “Lazarus is dead, 15 and for your sake I am glad I was not there, so that you may believe. But let us go to him.” 16 Then Thomas (also known as Didymus) said to the rest of the disciples, “Let us also go, that we may die with him.” 17 On his arrival, Jesus found that Lazarus had already been in the tomb for four days. 18 Now Bethany was less than two miles[b] from Jerusalem, 19 and many Jews had come to Martha and Mary to comfort them in the loss of their brother. 20 When Martha heard that Jesus was coming, she went out to meet him, but Mary stayed at home. 21 “Lord,” Martha said to Jesus, “if you had been here, my brother would not have died. 22 But I know that even now God will give you whatever you ask.” 23 Jesus said to her, “Your brother will rise again.” 24 Martha answered, “I know he will rise again in the resurrection at the last day.” 25 Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die; 26 and whoever lives by believing in me will never die. Do you believe this?” 27 “Yes, Lord,” she replied, “I believe that you are the Messiah, the Son of God, who is to come into the world.” 28 After she had said this, she went back and called her sister Mary aside. “The Teacher is here,” she said, “and is asking for you.” 29 When Mary heard this, she got up quickly and went to him. 30 Now Jesus had not yet entered the village, but was still at the place where Martha had met him. 31 When the Jews who had been with Mary in the house, comforting her, noticed how quickly she got up and went out, they followed her, supposing she was going to the tomb to mourn there.
And, coming, she prostrated herself before Jesus and says to him, ”son of David, have mercy on me”. But the disciples rebuked her. 32 When Mary reached the place where Jesus was and saw him, she fell at his feet and said, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.”
And Jesus, being angered, 33 When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who had come along with her also weeping, he was deeply moved in spirit and troubled.
34 “Where have you laid him?” he asked. “Come and see, Lord,” they replied. 35 Jesus wept. 36 Then the Jews said, “See how he loved him!” 37 But some of them said, “Could not he who opened the eyes of the blind man have kept this man from dying?”
went off with her into the garden where the tomb was, 38 Jesus, once more deeply moved, came to the tomb. came from the tombs to meet him. 3 This man lived in the tombs,
( … came to the tomb.)  It was a cave with a stone laid across the entrance.39 “Take away the stone,” he said.   “But, Lord,” said Martha, the sister of the dead man, “by this time there is a bad odor, for he has been there four days.” (5 Night and day among the tombs and in the hills he would cry out and cut himself with stones.)
40 Then Jesus said, “Did I not tell you that if you believe, you will see the glory of God?” 41 So they took away the stone. Then Jesus looked up and said, “Father, I thank you that you have heard me. 42 I knew that you always hear me, but I said this for the benefit of the people standing here, that they may believe that you sent me.” (7 … , “What do you want with me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? In God’s name don’t torture me!”)
43 When he had said this, Jesus called in a loud voice, (7 He shouted at the top of his voice, … )
“Lazarus, come out!” (8 For Jesus had said to him, “Come out of this man, you impure spirit!”)
and straightway, going in where the youth was, he stretched forth his hand and raised him, seizing his hand. 44 The dead man came out, his hands and feet wrapped with strips of linen, and a cloth around his face. and no one could bind him anymore, not even with a chain. 4 For he had often beenchained hand and foot,.
Jesus said to them, “Take off the grave clothes and let him go.” but he tore the chains apart and broke the irons on his feet. No one was strong enough to subdue him.
5 Night and day among the tombs and in the hills he would cry out and cut himself with stones. 6 When he saw Jesus from a distance, he ran and fell on his knees in front of him. 7 He shouted at the top of his voice, “What do you want with me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? In God’s name don’t torture me!” 8 For Jesus had said to him, “Come out of this man, you impure spirit!”9 Then Jesus asked him, “What is your name?”  “My name is Legion,” he replied, “for we are many.” 10 And he begged Jesus again and again not to send them out of the area. 11 A large herd of pigs was feeding on the nearby hillside. 12 The demons begged Jesus, “Send us among the pigs; allow us to go into them.” 13 He gave them permission, and the impure spirits came out and went into the pigs. The herd, about two thousand in number, rushed down the steep bank into the lake and were drowned. 14 Those tending the pigs ran off and reported this in the town and countryside, and the people went out to see what had happened. 15 When they came to Jesus, they saw the man who had been possessed by the legion of demons, sitting there, dressed and in his right mind; and they were afraid. 16 Those who had seen it told the people what had happened to the demon-possessed man—and told about the pigs as well. 17 Then the people began to plead with Jesus to leave their region.
But the youth, looking upon him, loved him and began to beseech him that he might be with him. 18 As Jesus was getting into the boat, the man who had been demon-possessed begged to go 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. (John 12:1 Six days before the Passover, Jesus came to Bethany, where Lazarus lived, whom Jesus had raised from the dead.) (15 When they came to Jesus, they saw the man who had been possessed by the legion of demons, sitting there, dressed and in his right mind; and they were afraid.)
And he remained with him that night, for Jesus taught him the mystery of the Kingdom of God. 19 Jesus did not let him, but said, “Go home to your own people and tell them how much the Lord has done for you, and how he has had mercy on you.
And thence, arising, he returned to the other side of the Jordan.” (46 But some of them went to the Pharisees and told them what Jesus had done.) 20 So the man went away and began to tell in the Decapolis how much Jesus had done for him.
45 Therefore many of the Jews who had come to visit Mary, and had seen what Jesus did, believed in him. 46 But some of them went to the Pharisees and told them what Jesus had done. And all the people were amazed. (16 Those who had seen it told the people what had happened to the demon-possessed man—and told about the pigs as well.)
And these words follow the text, ”And James and John come to him” and all that section. But ”naked man with naked man” and the other things about which you wrote, are not found. 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.” But many other things about which you wrote both seem to be and are falsifications. Now the true explanation and that which accords with the true philosophy. John 12:1 Six days before the Passover, Jesus came to Bethany, where Lazarus lived, whom Jesus had raised from the dead. 2 Here a dinner was given in Jesus’ honor. Martha served, while Lazarus was among those reclining at the table with him. (17 Then the people began to plead with Jesus to leave their region.)
DBlocker 8/2011

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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.”


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.


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.


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.


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.


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


[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.”


(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.


(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.


* 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.

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)

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.


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


[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,, 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:

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.

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