The Elephant in Richard Carrier’s Room
A Lesson for NT Scholarship
By Joseph Atwill
Richard Carrier has written a critique of two of the parallels I discussed in the chapter I wrote for Varieties of Jesus Mythicism.
I wish to respond.
First, Carrier asserts that it is highly implausible that the Roman created the NT because: “All the evidence contradicts this. And it has no basic plausibility even in the general behavior or Roman administrations.”
There is no evidence which negates the fact that the Flavian imperial court had the motivation, opportunity and capacity to have created the NT. Since no other known group possessed these attributes, the Flavians are obvious candidates for having created the religion. His second statement indicating the Roman provenance thesis has ‘no’ plausibility because of the “general behavior or Roman administrations” is inaccurate in that it is simply the case that it was within the ‘general behavior’ of the Caesars to invent religions, and if they had created Christianity, they wouldn’t have publicized it.
Carrier begins his critique of the parallels by criticizing my analysis of the relationship between the Good Samaritan story with a section of Josephus. In the chapter I wrote that the Good Samaritan parallel “is an example of a one that can only be recognized when reading with the understanding of the parallel sequences.” My point being that the parallel is too oblique to be seen outside of an established sequence of incontrovertible parallels which would which bring to light more occulted ones.
Claiming that a sequence can illuminate occulted parallels within it is not conjecture. My entire thesis is that the technique used to create what I refer to as the Moses/Jesus typological system presented below, is continued forward in the synoptic Gospels to link Jesus with Josephus’ depiction of the Roman campaign in Judea.
Note the ‘passing through water’ parallel, below. It is an occulted parallel that links different locations, an individual to a group and dissimilar events. But it becomes visible within the sequence it is contained within. This is the type of parallel I maintain the good Samaritan story represents.
I would ask the reader to spend enough time with the Moses/Jesus typological construction to understand it. In the system, names, locations and concepts - literal and symbolic - are linked within a sequence. As examples, within it Jesus represents the Israelites, and Satan the Jews.
Carrier never mentioned the Moses/Jesus typological system even though I presented it in the chapter and pointed out that the Jesus/Titus typology was created as an extension of it. Thus, Carrier’s critique can be seen as a tip to stern straw man in that he criticized my analysis using a standard of typology of his own invention made up of verbatim parallels, while failing to mention the standard I used, or that it comes from the Gospels themselves.
It is necessary to ask why Carrier did not mention the actual system of typology my thesis was based? There is a simple answer; he did not do
so as this would render his criticism incoherent. This is because the Moses/Jesus below was obviously created to be hidden and therefore much of its construction uses symbolism.
OLD TESTAMENT MATTHEW
Gen. 45-50 Joseph travels from Judea to Egypt 2:13 Joseph travel to Egypt
Ex. 1 Pharaoh massacres boys. 2:16 Herod massacres boys
Ex. 4 "All the men are dead ..." 2:20 "They are dead ..."
Ex. 12 From Egypt to Israel 2:21 From Egypt to Israel
Ex. 14 Passing through water (baptism) 3: 13 Baptism
Ex. 16 In the wilderness - Tempted by bread 4:4 In the wilderness - Tempted by bread
Ex. 17 Do not tempt God 4:7 Do not tempt God
Ex. 32 Worship only God 4:10 Worship only God
A thing cannot be both deliberately hidden and deliberately made overt. As I show below, Carrier’s approach could never see a typological construction that was meant to be hidden. And this is obviously an analytic error in that the Moses/Jesus typology demonstrates that such hidden constructions exist within the Gospels.
Nevertheless, as readers may judge for themselves, even with his self serving obsfucation of what I wrote, his attempt to negate my analysis is a total failure.
Carrier wrote: “As in this case: Atwill will just skip around among verses in Luke looking for anything he can make fit his fever dream, ignoring intervening material or even the order Luke puts anything in”
Since they are created using the same system as the Moses/Jesus typology above, the 14 parallels I cover in the chapter occur in the same sequence. Being confined within an established sequence is among the most rigorous methodology available for literary criticism and is the exact opposite of “looking for anything” in a “fever dream”.
Carrier’s idea that “intervening material” somehow weakens the typological parallels is simply incorrect. Notice that the events that make up the Moses/Jesus typology above are contained within a great deal of such material.
This criticism is a demonstration as to why Carrier cannot mention the Moses/Jesus typology. The “intervening material” is absolutely necessary to keep the meaning of the Moses/Jesus typology hidden. If Carrier had brought the Moses/Jesus typology to the readers’ attention,
his claim that “intervening material’ somehow weakens the Jesus/Titus typology would become incoherent.
Carrier wrote: “and also just randomly switch time periods in the supposed parallelism of the war (by Atwill’s reckoning, Luke 10 jumps back in time to before the events of Titus emulated in Luke 9, and for no intelligible reason).”
Though his grammar makes his meaning difficult to decode, I believe what Carrier is asserting is that there is no “intelligible reason” to presume that the story of the Good Samaritan looks “back in time.” This is nonsensical in that with his parable in Luke 10 Jesus is describing an event that occurred in the past. In fact, for the typology to be coherent the assault has to have occurred before the Samaritan appeared as that is the order of events in the history recorded by Josephus that is being mapped onto.
Carrier wrote: “Titus still later punishes it (the 12th legion) for its cowardice by sending it to a remote outpost after the war (Ibid., 7.1), hardly creating any intelligible parallel with Jesus’s parable. “
Grasping at straws. What Josephus actually wrote concerning the 12th legion following its reconstitution was this: “the 12th legion which formerly had been beaten with Cestius, which legion as was otherwise remarkable for its valor, so did it march on now with greater alacrity to avenge themselves on the Jews”,,, 5 ,1, 6 - certainly a ‘intelligible parallel’ to the restored victim described in the parable.
Carrier continues with his relentless conceptual misunderstanding of the typology and the creation of a straw man; he wrote:
“Titus was not involved in the massacre of the 12th legion; he wasn’t even in theatre yet. So why is this supposed to exemplify Atwill’s thesis that the story follows Titus?”
Again, the ‘Good Samaritan’ was not involved with the attack described in the parable precisely because the gospel story is mapping onto Josephus’s recording of the defeat of the 12th legion. Therefore, it would have been illogical for the Gospel story to describe the ‘Good Samaritan’ as being present before or during the attack as Titus does not appear until after the event. Moreover, the Jesus/Titus typology is not a mechanical ‘following’ of Titus. I have never claimed this and it is impossible to construct hidden typological meaning with such a crude, overt technique.
Carrier wrote: Nor does Josephus ever mention Titus “rescuing” and reconstituting that legion as Atwill claims. we’re told nothing of how it came to be there or who rebuilt it,
Again, grasping at straws. While Josephus does not provide the detail, which would make the typology too obvious, certainly the commanding general must be seen as a logical choice for having been involved with the ‘reconstitution’ of his legion.
Carrier wrote: “And never mind that the Samaritan in the parable was waylaid while “going down from Jerusalem to Jericho,” whereas the 12th legion was going in exactly the opposite direction,
Carrier’s basic reading skills and understanding of typological mapping fail him again. The parable does not state the direction the Samaritan traveled, the man who was stripped of his possessions was the one going from Jerusalem to Jericho. His assault maps onto the 12th Legion’s traveling on that road and in that direction when it was attacked and
‘stripped’. I would digress and note again that my assertion that the ‘stripped individual’ in the Good Samaritan parable represented a group - the 12th legion - is not far fetched as the technique was used in the Moses/Jesus typology wherein Jesus represented the nation of Jews.
Carrier’s assertion that the fact the legion was going in the opposite direction following Titus’s emergence from Samaria somehow contradicts the mapping is another example of his inability to track the simple logic within the typology. The 12th legion’s return to Jerusalem is obviously not mapped onto within the parable, only its earlier retreat.
Carrier wrote: “And never mind there is no specific reference to Samaria in Josephus’s account of the legion’s destruction, nor any allusion to the twelfth legion in Luke.”
Again, Carrier is unable to understand the simple logic of the typology. The ‘Samaritan’ (symbolizing Titus) did not appear until after the assault so he would not be represented as having appeared during it. Moreover, it is illuminating to note that if Luke had removed even this single aspect of the symbolism and simply described the ‘assaulted traveler’ as the 12th Legion, the veil would have been lifted and Christianity would not be a world wide religion today.
Carrier wrote: “These tales have nothing in common. They don’t even happen in the same place. Yes, both stories involve people “stealing” something (the Samaritan’s money; the legions’ banners and equipment).”
Carrier makes the same blunder over and over. Cestius was attacked on the road from Jerusalem to Jericho - the road the individual traveled who was attacked the Gospels’ parable. During his retreat, Cestius and the
legion spent a night at Scopus, a hill on the road to Jericho, where the Inn of the Good Samaritan exists today.
Moreover, Carrier’s basic reading skills fail him again as it was the victim’s money that was stolen, not the Samaritan's. Had this fact been placed into the parable it would have contradicted the logic of the mapping.
The second of my parallels that Carrier critiques is the ‘three crucified one survives’ passage in Josephus which I maintain maps onto the crucifixion story in the Gospels.
This amazing parallel had been unnoticed for two thousand years until I uncovered it. I did not find it by accident or skill, I simply knew where to look. In fact, the sequence of events in the Jesus/Titus typology leaves a space of only a few hundreds words in Josephus for the parallel to exist within.
“I saw many captives crucified, and remembered three of them as my former acquaintance. I was very sorry at this in my mind, and went with tears in my eyes to Titus, and told him of them; so he immediately commanded them to be taken down, and to have the greatest care taken of them, in order to their recovery; yet two of them died under the physician's hands, while the third recovered.” Life 75
Notice the number of details that are similar to those in the Gospels’ crucifixion story:
A group of three being crucified
The Roman commander being begged to take them down from the cross
The names of the persons asking the Roman commander to remove the three from the crosses - Joseph bar Mathias and Joseph of Arimathea
The story’s position in the overall sequence
Obviously, if the passage were found within an established sequence between Josephus and the Gospels any honest critic would conclude that a passage with so many similarities to the Gospels’ crucifixion story had been deliberately mapped onto it. The fact it was placed at the correct location within such a sequence is QED.
Carrier’s following comments are fascinating in that they reveal a kind of cognitive dissonance. He seems to be hoping that if he can find differences this will somehow make the fact that Josephus recorded three people being crucified and one survived disappear. This is clearly an obsfucation in that it is the similarities that need the explanation, not the differences. The question simply must be asked: why does Carrier not mention the fact that he is not dealing with single parallels, but a collection?
Carrier wrote: Josephus never mentions the ones “to the right and left” being the ones to die, yet this is a crucial component of Mark’s story; in the Gospels, all three men die, and the only one removed is even reported as confirmed to be dead—that he rises from the dead days later is certainly no parallel to Josephus’s story, where all three are removed, and the one who survives never died; and Josephus says all were taken down and attended by doctors, yet no such thing happens in the Gospels, not even for the one taken down.
All symbolism seems to baffle Carrier. His following comment suggests that in order to create a real parallel to the Gospels crucifixion, Josephus would have needed to create a story in which Titus himself was on the cross.
With the typological method Carrier is suggesting, all symbolism would be removed and one story would simply be a mirror of the other. Contrast Carrier’s standard for typology (Titus on the cross) to the Moses/Jesus typology in which every parallel that makes it up uses symbolism.
Even if there were still a parallel intended, Jesus is not being mapped to Titus in the Gospels here, contradicting Atwill’s entire thesis: the parallel, if it existed, would be of Titus to Pilate, as those are the men who heed a request to order men taken down (Titus wasn’t the one on the cross); moreover, Pilate is only asked, and only gives an order, for one to be taken down, and only after confirming he was dead, which completely annihilates any parallel with the Titus story from Josephus.
Carrier then claims that I am distorting evidence by noting that the names of the individual who asks the Roman commander to take the men down from the cross is suspiciously similar to that of the character in the Gospels who asks Pilate to take Jesus down from the cross.
Ignoring all that, Atwill cherry-picks and distorts evidence, such as by claiming a coincidence of names alone is otherwise too unlikely: two men named Joseph request of a Roman official that “someone” be taken down from a cross, and both even seem similarly nicknamed: the man
from Arimathea is apo Arimathaias, which is close to Barmatthias, “son of Matthias,” and Josephus happens to be the “son of Matthias” (Life 1). But if this were intentional, Mark would say “Barmathias” or hou Matthias (as Josephus does), not apo Arimathaias.
He then concludes that: “The spelling isn’t even the same (Josephus follows a tau with theta; Mark has no tau). An author colluding to create a parallel doesn’t screw it up like this.”
Carrier cannot see that he is contradicting himself. Every author wishing to create a colluded parallel must create exactly such differences, otherwise the parallel would not be ‘colluded’.
As noted above, Carrier’s greatest analytic error - again the elephant in the room appears - is that he never mentions that Josephus’ similarities to the Gospels’ crucifixion story are all within a tiny block of text. They therefore require analysis not just as individual elements, but as a collection.
Considered from this perspective, their differences become less important and their similarities more so. If, for example, Josephus had recorded that the men were merely being executed, or if he described a group of 5 being crucified, or that 2 had survived, or if the man Josephus begged to take them down had simply been a soldier, or if the name of the man that did the begging was Saul, or if the event occurred at the start of Titus’s campaign then the overall parallel would weaken with each difference until it disappeared. But no one can deny that the reverse is also true; each unusual similarity adds to the weight of the others until the collection becomes difficult to even imagine as having been assembled accidentally.
Thus, once again, Carrier does not mention that the details are a collection because he cannot. To do so would expose his entire technique of analyzing the details separately as simply a form of obfuscation. By focusing on their differences he is avoiding addressing the greater and more urgent mystery - how did so many similarities appear within a collection found in a block of text of this size?
I hope this exchange will be distributed far and wide as Carrier’s analytic failures are examples of an epidemic. The profound implications of the Moses/Jesus typology have been ignored by NT scholarship and this needs to end.
We need to admit that there is an elephant in the room.
There is a new exchange between myself and Dr. Robert M. Price. You can view it on You tube at:
Robert has drawn a different conclusion about the CM theory than the one he presented in our first discussion, a conclusion that is important to listen to.
Very important information for the public. And fun to watch
Richard Carrier has written a recent critique of Caesar’s Messiah that can be viewed at his website freethoughtblogs.com. The article consists of little more than analytic blunders and outright inaccuracies.
The story began several years ago when I contacted Carrier (PhD) because he was publically criticizing Caesar’s Messiah in an incoherent manner that clearly indicated he had not read the book. I wrote:
“Dear Mr. Carrier: A friend passed along to me your posts concerning my work, Caesar’s Messiah. Your criticism suggests that I have not, evidentially, explained my thesis clearly enough. Please allow me to correct this.”
Carrier (PhD) admitted that he had not read Caesar’s Messiah, but demanded that I send him the ‘best example’ of my thesis before he would do so. Though this was, of course, not an appropriate request from someone who was already publically criticizing the work, I explained to him that there was no solitary example that would communicate the theory and that he needed to read the book, or least the parts of it that describe the overall pattern of prefiguration typology that links Jesus Christ to Titus Flavius. I wrote:
“If you wish to understand the thesis, however, there is no shortcut to reading the book, as the system that I maintain exists in the Gospels is both incrementally built and interrelated. Thus, as with the typology in Mathew, no single parallel is capable of even demonstrating the thesis, which can only be understood by viewing the overall mapping. As in Matthew, a number of the parallels between Jesus and Titus can only be seen within the overall mapping scheme.”
What followed was a long and comical email exchange where I repeatedly attempted to get Carrier (PhD) to look at the overall sequence of events that revealed the typological pattern. He time and again refused until he had seen the 'best' example, claiming that if a single example was not strong enough that this would relieve him of the need to read the book.
In Carrier’s (PhD) recent post he still insists that determining the existence of a typological system of parallels can be done from a single example (the logical fallacy of division) when in fact the correct methodology is to examine the data as a whole. In effect he insists on an approach that will never, ever disclose a pattern. Carrier wrote:
“…what am I to do? I can’t listen to every bozo who says this. My lifespan simply isn’t that long. So I will ask him to present me with one single piece of his case, the piece that is most ‘amazing’ or suggestive or whatever, and if that checks out and does indeed point where he claims, then I can ask for his next best piece of evidence, and so on, and if he keeps passing the bar eventually I will have examined his whole case and, by then, I should be convinced he’s right. But if he fails to present anything even remotely persuasive even on the first try, then I know it is a complete waste of my time to look at any of his other hundred pieces of ‘evidence.’
“Whether you appreciate this or not is irrelevant. You simply have a choice: meet my standards or walk away. If you walk away, then I remain where all other historians stand: with no warrant to give any credit to your theory. If you are fine with that, then so am I. Otherwise, your only recourse is to meet our terms of demonstration. Yet already you break the rules by barraging me with a dozen cases of mixed value. I told you to pick one—your best—and start with that.”
What Carrier (PhD) termed “barraging” was first simply asking him to read what he publically critiqued and pointing out that the only way a sequence could be judged was as a sequence. Faced with this myopia I sent him the passage citations of the first four parallels I discuss in Caesar’s Messiah and a one-line description of the parallelism.
My hope was that he would see the parallelism and thus read the full analysis. No luck, however. One of the farcical aspects of the exchange was that while he believed his methods would save him from wasting time on imaginary crackpot theories, he instead wasted copious amounts of time with criticizing his imaginary version of my thesis.
In his recent post Carrier (PhD) creatively edited our past correspondence into a biased version suggesting that he was the voice of reason and I was unwilling to provide evidence. He wrote:
“You might now be getting the idea of why I am sick of this and see no point in conversing with the man ever again. And mind you, I left out half the conversation...there was even more tedious stuff like this…to show what I mean, I will conclude here by pasting in key portions of the emails I sent him then.”
I would hope the reader bear in mind Carrier’s (PhD) admission above that he “left out half the conversation”. The “tedious” half he left out was my exposing his absurd efforts to criticize a work he’d never read and his fallacious attempt to judge a pattern by a single point of data. The half he left in was what he judged to be his best reasoning. As the reader will see below, even his best arguments are made up of little more than unremitting inaccuracies and analytic blunders.
In his recent post Carrier (PhD) begins by citing a number of general problems he sees with my thesis, which he claims sets up the requirement for it to be supported by exceptionally good evidence to be at all credible. He wrote:
“The Roman aristocracy was nowhere near as clever as Atwill’s theory requires. They certainly were not so masterfully educated in the Jewish scriptures and theology that they could compose hundreds of pages of elegant passages based on it. And it is very unlikely they would ever conceive of a scheme like this, much less think they could succeed at it (even less, actually do so).”
First, the idea that Carrier (PhD) knows how “clever” the Roman aristocracy was is, of course, nothing but a fantasy. Moreover, I never claimed the Caesars’ wrote the Gospels, an absurd notion, but rather that the Jewish intellectuals and employees within their inner circle did so. Both Titus’s mistress Bernice and his primary general during the Jewish war, Tiberius Alexander the nephew of Philo, were Jewish. Moreover, Josephus, a Jewish intellectual became an adopted member of the Flavian family. Together this group had the capacity and motivation to have written the Gospels.
The truth is exactly the reverse of Carrier’s (PhD) suggestion. In other words, the Flavian court was the only place where the capacity and motivation to produce the bizarre pro-Roman Gospels was known to have existed. The Flavians should be the first suspects, not the last.
Carrier (PhD) next cites the fact that there were different editions of the Gospels that circulated and that this shows that Roman aristocracy had not selected the canonical Gospels.
“We know there were over forty Gospels, yet the four chosen for the canon were not selected until well into the 2nd century, and not by anyone in the Roman aristocracy.”
In fact, from the very beginning the four canonical Gospels had a special status. Bernard Mutschle has shown that by 180 CE Clement of Alexandria’s (Titus Flavius Clement) writings cited the 4 canonical NT gospels a total of 1,672 times. He referred to the apocryphal gospels only 16 times. So the 100 to 1 ratio makes it clear that the four canonical gospels were linked together, and, for some reason, were more important than the others to those that produced them.
Moreover, Carrier’s (PhD) sense of probability is incorrect. If there were four thousand Gospels in circulation out of which the four selected as the canon were shown to have been typologically mapped onto Titus’s military victory, the great number they were chosen from would confirm that they had been deliberately selected, not put it in doubt.
Carrier (PhD) claimed that:
“The Gospels and the Epistles all contradict each other far too much to have been composed with a systematic aim in mind and that The Gospels and the Epistles differ far too much in style to have come from the same hand.”
His first concern is irrelevant in that he gives no example of where contradictions impact the Gospels’ prefiguration of Titus. His second concern is a straw man in that I maintain that many scribes worked on the project.
Carrier speculated that if pacifying Palestine Jews were a goal of the Gospels they would not have been written in Greek:
“If the Roman elite’s aim was to “pacify” Palestinian Jews by inventing new scriptures, they were certainly smart and informed enough to know that that wouldn’t succeed by using the language the Judean elite despised as foreign (Greek).”
The purpose for the Gospels was not to pacify Palestinian Jews. Josephus recorded the political purpose behind the religion, which was to slow down the missionary activity of the Judean zealots to Greek speaking diaspora living outside of Judea (see Jewish Wars, Preface, 2, 5).
Carrier (PhD) also stated that religious propaganda from the Flavians was unlikely because “The Romans knew one thing well: War. Social ideology they were never very good at.”
This is simply nonsense. All of the Caesars used religion as propaganda and the Flavians developed ‘Caesar miracle working’ to its highest level. Please read Vespasian’s Wonders in Domitianic Rome by Luke for examples of how the Flavians took over the identities of local gods and claimed miraculous powers as propaganda devices.
Carrier (PhD) also claimed that since the Flavians had destroyed the militarized messianic movement that they would not have needed to develop a pacified Judaism. He wrote:
“The Jewish War was effectively over in just four years (any siege war was expected to take at least three, and Vespasian was actually busy conquering Rome in the fourth year of that War). So why would they think they needed any other solution?”
Carrier (PhD) commits the common blunder of assuming that the Flavians’ war of 66-73 had destroyed the Jews’ messianic rebellion. In fact, Josephus concluded the Wars of the Jews by describing a messianic rebellion that broke out in Cyrene after the fall of Masada. Moreover, the Gospels were written during the period leading up to the Kitos rebellion. In that war the messianic Jews slaughtered whole Gentile populations in Cyprus, Cyrene, and Egypt, with the rebellion spreading even into Asia Minor and Judea.
The 4th century Christian historian Paulus Orosius recorded that the violence so depopulated the province of Cyrenaica that new colonies had to be established by Hadrian:
"The Jews...waged war on the inhabitants throughout Libya in the most savage fashion, and to such an extent was the country wasted that, its cultivators having been slain, its land would have remained utterly depopulated, had not the Emperor Hadrian gathered settlers from other places and sent them thither, for the inhabitants had been wiped out."
Dio also described the carnage. He wrote:
"Meanwhile the Jews in the region of Cyrene had put one Andreas at their head and were destroying both the Romans and the Greeks. They would cook their flesh, make belts for themselves of their entrails, anoint themselves with their blood, and wear their skins for clothing. Many they sawed in two, from the head downwards. Others they would give to wild beasts and force still others to fight as gladiators. In all, consequently, two hundred and twenty thousand perished. In Egypt, also, they performed many similar deeds, and in Cyprus under the leadership of Artemio. There, likewise, two hundred and forty thousand perished.”
Throughout his critique, Carrier (PhD) constantly refers to what he calls my “best evidence”, which he not only invents but also keeps changing to suit his purposes. He is using a Non Sequitur intended to cast dispersion on everything else in my thesis. Bear in mind I never sent him anything that I claimed was my best evidence. I was not avoiding doing so but as those who have read Caesar’s Messiah know, there simply is not any one parallel that is the ‘best’. It is the entire system that is the evidence. Carrier wrote:
“His Best Evidence Is Just Offal. Here is a sample of what Atwill tried to present to me as his ‘best’ examples of evidence supporting his thesis, and why they demonstrate we need waste no further time with him…”
Carrier (PhD) and I actually only discussed four of the Jesus/Titus parallels that make up the prefiguration typology:
We spent the greatest amount of time with the ‘demons of Gadara.’ Carrier (PhD) did not believe that there was even a possible parallel because of the location of Gadara was too far from the Sea of Galilee to be a candidate for the location of the ‘swine miracle’ in the Gospels’ story.
During the exchange below take note of Carrier’s (PhD) first use of one of his many ‘absolutes’ – that I am opposed to ‘all’ contemporary scholarship in using the received text, which has Gadara as a site of the swine miracle. Also notice it is on the basis of my using Gadara within my analysis that Carrier brands me a ‘crank’.
“It’s also the wrong place. Atwill struggles against all contemporary scholarship to insist that Gadara was the original reading in the Gospels (because his theory requires it to be) when in fact it almost certainly was not. I’ll explain more on that fact below, since it’s one of the most telling examples of Atwill’s incompetence at a study like this, as well as of his inability to humbly admit being wrong, and his repeated resort to ad hoc attempts to deny or assert facts to save his theory, which only dig him deeper into a hill of bullshit, very much just like pretty much any Christian apologist you might ever have had the displeasure of arguing with. As you’ll see, it’s one of the best demonstrations of what it’s like to argue like a crank.”
Carrier (PhD) claimed that it was certain that Gadara was a mistranslation of another town, ‘Gergesa’. He claimed that this town, which was on the Sea of Galilee, had to have been the site of Jesus’s exorcism of the demoniac because Gadara was “more than a days” walk from the Sea of galilee.
This is the first of the many factual errors in Carrier’s (PhD) analysis. Six miles can be walked in under two hours. Pursued by Roman soldiers, any member of a high school cross-country team could travel the distance in under 40 minutes.
Carrier (PhD) attempted to use Origen’s comments on the textual confusion over the location of the swine miracle as a way to block my interpretation in its tracks. But Origen’s comments are inconclusive on their face in that he does not define what the ‘country’ of the Gadarenes means nor does he have any understanding of what the original text said. Origen wrote:
“But in a few copies we have found, "into the country of the Gadarenes;" and, on this reading, it is to be stated that Gadara is a town of Judaea, in the neighborhood of which are the well-known hot springs, and that there is no lake there with overhanging banks, nor any sea. But Gergesa, from which the name Gergesenes is taken, is an old town in the neighborhood of the lake now called Tiberias, and on the edge of it there is a steep place abutting on the lake, from which it is pointed out that the swine were cast down by the demons.” (Commentary on John Book VI, 24)
Carrier (PhD) wrote:
“You mean Gergesa (aka “Gerasa”). Gadara is a textual corruption. Earlier manuscripts of Matthew had Gerasa or Gergesa (variants of the same coastal-town’s name), not Gadara, as was already known by the time of Origen (early 3rd century) if not before, and has since been confirmed through manuscript textual analysis, and [this] is why Luke and Mark both correctly identify the town as Gerasa, not Gadara, while the geography of all three accounts obviously requires the town to be Gergesa, not Gadara–the latter being nowhere near the water (rather, more than a day’s walk from it)…the textual analysis of the manuscript tradition that we can reconstruct from texts all across the Mediterranean confirms that the Gadara reading must have arisen later in the tradition than either Gerasa or Gergesa…Origen also discusses a very different city called Gerasa, but we now know that Gerasa is a possible transliteration of Gergesa from local dialects into Greek, and so the original text could have had either, referring to what Origen identifies as Gergesa). That all the earliest mss. that survive of Mark, Matthew, and Luke have Gerasa or Gergesa, not Gadara, confirms this (including an actual papyrus from Luke dated to the very time of Origen)”
Carrier’s (PhD) claim that “all the earliest mss of Mark, Matthew and Luke have Gerasa or Gergesa not Gadara” is incorrect.
All of the four great ancient uncial codices record Gadara. In Matthew's gospel the location is Gadarenes in Vaticanus. In Mark's account, Vaticanus has “Gerasenes” but Alexandrinus and Ephraemi have "Gadarenes". Whereas in Luke's account, Alexandrinus has "Gadarenes" and Sinaiticus has "Gergesenes". All that can be determined from Origen and the earliest manuscripts is that by the fourth century no one was certain as to what the original text had read.
Carrier (PhD) eventually gave up on trying to use Origen as proving unequivocally that Gadara could not have been the site of Jesus’s swine miracle, but moved into an argument based upon the area’s geography. In other words, Carrier created a theory that Gadara was totally landlocked and therefore could not have been the place from which the demonized rushed into the sea. He wrote:
“Regardless of what Origen said, we now can determine ourselves from extant mss. [= manuscripts] that Gadara is the corruption (check any textual apparatus for the NT to see why). Origen was aware of there being a corruption, but lacked the data we now have, so he resolved it by appeal to his personal knowledge of geography (and the symbolic employment of the location by the Gospel author)–and his reasoning is entirely correct: Gadara is geographically impossible, whereas Gergesa is clearly the intended location.”
Alert readers will have already noticed that Carrier’s (PhD) entire approach to analyzing the story is ridiculous. A tale that describes someone with talking demons inside of them and possessed pigs Is not a literal history. Carrier nevertheless tries to apply reality-based criticism to a story that is either a fable or broadly symbolic and so loses the thread completely. He wrote:
“Neither Gadara nor Gerasa lies on the shore of the Galilean lake in any position from which a herd of pigs could rush down a bank into the water. Gadara stands about 5 miles from the sea of Galilee, Gerasa even further (more than thirty miles away).”
I was afraid to even ask Carrier (PhD) how he knew the capacities of demonized pigs, so I simply pointed out that none of the synoptic evangelists suggests that the encounter with the demoniac occurred at Gadara proper, but only in the country (χωραν) of the Gadarenes. In other words that Carrier’s (PhD) absolute certainty of the requirement for Gergesa was absurd as there is no way to know how far such a region went.
I wrote (quoting Bruce Metzger):
“Moreover, ‘Gadara’ is defined by Josephus as possessing territory ‘which lay on the frontiers of the Sea of Galilee’ (Life ix, 42)”
Carrier (PhD) realized that his ‘Landlocked Gadara Theory’ was kaput if the city held a territory with villages down to the shoreline of the Sea of Galilee, so after some geometric calculations he responded:
“Pardon me, but [Josephus] says no such thing there. The text says: ‘Then Justus through persuasion convinced the citizens [of Tiberias: Life 31] to take up arms, though forcing many against their will, and he went out with all of them and burned the villages of both the Gadarenes and the Hipposians, villages which happened to be lying on the border between the land of Tiberias and that of Scythopolis.’”
Carrier (PhD) went on to claim that the ‘country’ of the Gadarenes could not have bordered on the Sea of Galilee because villages possessed by the town of Hippos blocked such a territory (bear in mind that there is no archeology to support such an assertion). He wrote:
“Nowhere is there any mention of the “Sea of Galilee” here, nor geographically would that be possible. Hippos would certainly have had villages near the sea, but they would be between the sea and any villages held by Gadara. So there is no way to read Josephus as here saying there were villages of Gadara near the Sea of Galilee, much less on it.”
However, Carrier (PhD) realized that if Hippos and Gadara’s villages shared a border with the city of Tiberius, which lay on the shoreline, this could be problematic for his absolute position that Gadara was impossible as the location of the swine miracle and so he found a ‘solution’. I would ask the reader to pay close attention to Carrier’s disjointed train of thought below, as there is a reward later. He wrote:
“Hippos and Gadara had towns “on the border between” the cities of Tiberias and Scythopolis (which Josephus can only mean in rough terms, since neither could have had towns directly between those two cities, but could have held towns within five or ten miles of a point between Tiberias and Scythopolis, which could have sat on the border of lands held by Tiberias and Scythopolis).
“Indeed, elsewhere Josephus says Gadara is twice as far from Tiberias as Hippos (Life 336): Hippos, he says, is roughly 4 miles from Tiberias, Gadara roughly 8 miles, and Scythopolis roughly 15 miles (all his numbers are short of the actual distance by about 25% but are correct in proportion). Here again he places the sequence in geographic order as: Tiberias, Hippos, Gadara, and Scythopolis. Though these do not sit on a straight line, their relative position north to south is correct. It is roughly four miles from Tiberias to the end of the Sea, where the border of Hippos could have been (if Josephus is measuring to nearest border and not across the water to the actual city), and about six actual miles beyond that in a continuous line (as the coastline points) is Gadara.
“So Josephus was short by only a couple of miles, yet even his own short estimate places Gadara several hours away from the sea. Josephus likewise says (in Life 44) “some nearby peoples, Gadarenes and Gabarenes and Tyrians” joined an attack on Gischala–these tribes are all over Galilee, and none near the Sea of Galilee. Thus again “nearby” is clearly a relative term–certainly for any sentence that says both the Gadarenes and the Tyrians were “nearby” Gischala!
“All in all, there is zero support in Josephus for placing any Gadarenes near the Sea.”
Carrier (PhD) is claiming that as someone in Gadara looked out to the Sea of Galilee, the town of on its right, Hippos, had villages blocking Gadara’s villages from a presence of the shoreline. On its left the towns of Scythopolis were also blocking its villages and thus poor Gadara was landlocked. Of course there is no archeological evidence for such a fantasy, which is not even plausible as a conjecture in that the cities were part of a military alliance – the Decapolis - and allies would not ‘land lock’ one another.
There is even a bigger ‘hole’ in Carrier’s geometry, however. Since his landlocked theory requires Hippos’s villages to block Gadara villages access to the Sea from its right, and Scythopolis’ from its left, where is the area that Gadara had towns “on the border” of the cities of Tiberias and Scythopolis? Carrier has not only painted himself into a corner, but painted the corner out of existence as well.
To try and steer Carrier away from this silliness I sent him an example of a coin showing that Gadara was a town with a connection to the sea. I wrote:
“This understanding is supported by a number of coins bearing the name Gadara that portray a ship”
Carrier’s (PhD) response to the coin evidence is one of the low points in NT scholarship. Few paragraphs in the field contain so many blunders or unintended irony. He wrote:
“Did you actually bother to check the meaning of this? The coins in question were issued only once under Pompey and depict a war galley with the inscription “NAUMA[CHIA].” No Gadarene coins from any other era depict ships of any kind. A “Naumachia” was usually a mock naval battle held in an amphitheater, and may have been in this case, although the Sea of Galilee could have been the most convenient venue at the time. But all the cities of the Decapolis would have been invited to send teams to the competition, not just those on the coast. The Gadarene team probably won, and Pompey honored their victory by issuing a coin celebrating it. This in no way conveys the notion that Gadara was a naval town, much less a military base!
“I think your scholarship is alarmingly shallow here, in both your treatment of the text of Josephus and this coin. Do you even read Greek?”
To insist that a Gadarene coin depicting a ship is “in no way” evidence that Gadara was a town with a presence on the coastline is, of course, ridiculous. It is another one of Carrier’s (PhD) claims for an absolutism, which would be wrong under any circumstances, but are shown to be absurd by a review of the facts.
In this instance, lo and behold, other examples of Gadara Naumchia coins from other eras are not too hard to come by. Here’s one issued by Marcus Aureillius around 160 CE, over two centuries after Pompey.
And there are many others. Roman Emperors like Severus, Eglabalus, and Gordianus III all issued Gadarene coins with ships on them.
Readers wishing for a souvenir of Carrier’s ‘Landlocked Gadara Theory’ may buy a Gadarene coin with a boat on it at the link below:
Zev Radovan's Bible Land Pictures > Acheology > Coins
Thus my response to Carrier’s (PhD) question: “Do you even read Greek?” is “Can you even use Google?”
The reader may begin to realize that the tide is beginning to turn on Carrier’s claim regarding my “alarmingly shallow” scholarship. Let’s next consult Bruce Metzger, and expert on Greek Biblical manuscripts, and compare it to my understanding of Biblical geography and Josephus’s text:
“Note, however, that none of the synoptic evangelists suggests that the encounter with the Gadarene demoniac occurred at Gadara proper, but only in the country (χωραν) of the Gadarenes (but refer also to the textual variants in each). According to Josephus, Gadara had outlying villages bordering on Tiberias (id est, the sea of Galilee).” (A Textual Commentary on the Greek New Testament, p23)
So when Carrier (PhD) claims that I am struggling against all contemporary scholarship he seems to be claiming that one of the most prominent Biblical scholars of the last century was a ‘crank’.
But the tide, literally, went out and exposed Carrier’s ‘Landlocked Gadara Theory’ as a fraud. An unusually low water level near Kibbutz Ha'on in the mid-eighties revealed an important archeological discovery. It is one that is now so well known among specialists and the public that I have been wondering if some alert reader has pointed this out to Carrier (PhD) already.
Gadara had a harbor.
Gordon Franz, adjunct instructor in the Talbot School of Theology's "Bible Lands Program," explained:
“Some textual critics have objected to the reading of Gadara, located at Umm Qeis, south of the Yarmuk River, because it is to far from the Sea of Galilee (10 Kilometers as the crow flies) and had no control over any part of the Lake. In 1985, however, as a result of the low water level, a harbor was discovered south of Tel Samra. This harbor is the largest harbor on the east side of the lake, larger than Hippos (Susita), the other Decapolis city bordering the lake. Its outer breakwater measures some 250 meters long and has a 5 meter wide base. The quay, or landing place for the boats, is some 200 meters long. There is also a 500 meter pier along the shore (Nun 1989a: 16-18). Mendel Nun, a fisherman from Kibbutz Ein Gev and a noted authority on the Sea of Galilee surmised: One can only assume that a splendid harbor such as this did not serve a small population. It is much more likely that it once had been the harbor of Gadara, located on the heights of Gilead above the Yarmuk River the largest and most magnificent of the Hellenistic towns that encircled the Sea of Galilee...
“Coins from Gadara were discovered which depict boats commemorating the Naumachia, or naval battles reenacted by the people of Gadara. Several scholars have suggested that these battles took place on the Yarmuk River…But along the shore of the Sea of Galilee is now a more defendable conclusion. The shore would allow for the comfortable seating of the spectators along the 500 meter pier as they watched the sea battles.”
Let us then recap the misstatements of ‘facts’ that Carrier’s (PhD) invented to make his ‘Landlocked Gadara Theory’ credible and to brand me as the “crank”. They provide the truth about the scholarship of the slanderer who claimed, “I actually know what I am talking about, and have an actual Ph.D. in a relevant subject from a real university.”
Since Carrier (PhD) used his ‘Landlocked Gadara Theory’ to block any discussion of my actual analysis of the typological meaning of the Gospel’s Swine Miracle I want to include it at this point. In Caesar’s Messiah I simply lay out the texts side by side so that readers can determine for themselves if typological mapping is occurring.
Below is the analysis in Caesar’s Messiah of the “Demons of Gadara” parallel. The typological symbolism in the Gadara Swine Miracle uses broad strokes and can reasonably be contested if examined in isolation, though even in this context it is clear enough that other scholars have noticed it. For example, refer to Dr. Rod Blackhirst’s description of it in the Caesar’s Messiah documentary. The connections become clear when seen within the sequence and so I will provide the citations for the passages below.
The basic parallelism can be described as follows; an individual has numerous demons inside of him that are unleashed into the countryside around the Sea of Galilee. These demons in turn infect another group. This combined group rushes into the water. In the Gospels’ version Jesus drives out the demons, this ‘prefigures’ Titus’s driving the Jewish ‘demons’ into the Sea forty years later. The following is the full analysis of the passage from Caesar’s Messiah:
* * *
John possessed by a demon
Continuing with the Luke/Josephus typology, both authors describe a “John” with a demon. The passage in Luke is important in that it shows the basis for the Gospels’ character “John the Baptist”. Within the typological pattern, it is clear that “John the Baptist” – like the apostle “John” – is simply a “type” who “foresees” the rebel John of Gischala.
“For John the Baptist has come eating no bread and drinking no wine, and you say, `He has a demon!' (Luke 7:33-35)
Josephus also describes a “John” who is possessed by a demon.
By this time John was beginning to tyrannize,,,many there were that thought they should be safer themselves, if the causes of their past insolent actions should now be reduced to one head, and not to a great many…Now as it is in a human body, if the principal part be inflamed, all the members are subject to the same distemper… (Wars of the Jews, 4, 7, 389-391, 407)
Demons…are no other than the spirit of the wicked. (Wars of the Jews, 7, 6, 185)
John…filled the entire countryside with ten thousand instances of wickedness. (Wars of the Jews, 7, 8, 263)
The legion of demons
Luke begins the sequence of events in the “demoniac of Gadara/Geresa” story with a description of a man possessed by a legion of demons. (I address the confusion about the two different locations of the story given in the Gospels below.)
Then they sailed to the country of the Gerasenes, which is opposite Galilee.
And when He stepped out on the land, there met Him a certain man from the city who had demons for a long time. And he wore no clothes, nor did he live in a house but in the tombs. (Luke 8:26-29)
Luke then describes a “legion” of demons inside the infected man.
Jesus asked him, saying, "What is your name?" And he said, "Legion," because many demons had entered him. (Luke 8:30)
Josephus also identifies the size of the rebel force that had “left” John and ravaged the countryside as being a “legion”; that is to say it was a group larger than a “gang of thieves” but smaller than an army. Once again, the reader should note how transparent the parallel would be if Josephus had simply chosen to call the group a ‘legion of demons’ rather than have reader deduce this description.
…yet were these men that now got together, and joined in the conspiracy by parties, too small for an army, and too many for a gang of thieves… (Wars of the Jews, 4, 7, 408)
Demons infect another group
Luke then states that the “demons” that left the man infected another group.
And they begged Him that He would not command them to go out into the abyss.
Now a herd of many swine was feeding there on the mountain. So they begged Him that He would permit them to enter them. And He permitted them.
Then the demons went out of the man and entered the swine. (Luke 8:31-33)
Josephus then describes how the “demons” that left John had “filled the countryside” and infected another group.
And now Vespasian sent Placidus against those that had fled from Gadara, with five hundred horsemen, and three thousand footmen, while he returned himself to Cesarea, with the rest of the army.
But as soon as these fugitives saw the horsemen that pursued them just upon their backs, and before they came to a close fight, they ran together to a certain village, which was called Bethennabris, where finding a great multitude of young men, and arming them, partly by their own consent, partly by force, they rashly and suddenly assaulted Placidus and the troops that were with him. (Wars of the Jews, 4, 8, 419-421)
The herd ran violently
Luke next describes how the herd ran.
…and the herd rushed down the steep bank… (Luke 8:33)
Josephus next describes how the group ran.
…and, like the wildest of wild beasts, they rushed upon the point of others' swords; so some of them were… (Wars of the Jews, 4, 8, 425)
The herd drowned
Luke describes that the herd drowned.
… into the lake and drowned. (Luke 8:33)
Josephus describes that the “herd” drowned.
They then extended themselves a very great way along the banks of the river, and sustained the darts that were thrown at them, as well as the attacks of the horsemen, who beat many of them, and pushed them into the current. (Wars of the Jews, 4, 8, 434)
To digress, the reason that different Gospels refer to the location of the demoniac as Gadara and Geresa – and that one version has one and others two demoniacs – is that the demoniac tale “foresees” both rebel leaders, John – who battled the Romans around Gadara – and “Simon”, called “Simon of Geresa” (Wars of the Jews, 4, 9, 503). The different demoniac stories were not, as is often suggested, garbled traditions, but rather were written intertextually, which is to say that all the details within the parallel stories add to the information the authors wished to communicate.
* * *
Carrier (PhD) and I also discussed the ‘human Passover lamb’ parallel. Carrier (PhD) is not only a historian but also a literary analyst and actually came up with his own parallel to Josephus’ ‘Cannibal Mary’ passage, which he claimed was an improvement over mine. To his credit, Carrier was able to recognize that Mary’s cannibalized son in Josephus was, like Jesus in the Gospels, a human Passover lamb. This was the end of his clear mindedness because, incredibly, he did not see this as a meaningful connection.
“Even His Only Good Example Proves How Wrong He Is: The only good example Atwill sent me is his analysis of JW 6.201ff. Unfortunately, it is not a good example of his thesis, since it does not involve Jesus being mapped onto Titus (as Atwill’s thesis proposes) and the only distinct connection this story has with Jesus is the name “Mary” as the mother of an eaten child, and its connection to Passover.
“But “Mary” unfortunately was one of the most common Jewish female names (being, as it was, the name of the sister of Moses…one in four Jewish women had the name…you heard that right…one in four), and Passover is a ubiquitous theme throughout Jewish literature. So to have those two items alone as the link does not bode well.,,,by inverting the concept of the Passover in order to represent the inversion of Jewish society among those who remained rebels against Rome.
“What Josephus seems to have in mind is to communicate that Jewish society had been turned upside down by rebellion, and he does this by turning the Passover upside down. Hence we have here a Jew’s own poetic inversion of the Passover to make a contextual point about the state of society during the siege of Jerusalem.”
Carrier (PhD) then made a statement revealing only a very limited capacity to detect symbolism.
“Had the baby been called Jesus, then Atwill might have had something. Or if the Gospels identified the mother of Jesus as “Mary the daughter of Eleazar” or “from the town of Bethezob,” as the Mary in Josephus is. Or had any Gospel identified any other Mary as being the actual daughter of Lazarus (“Eleazar”), instead of his sister, as only one Gospel actually does (Jn. 11:2). But alas, no such connections are there.”
Note that Carrier (PhD) gives no evidence to support the methodology he uses below but simply sets up completely arbitrary standards to connect Josephus to the Bible. His standards permit him to range over the entire Old Testament searching for possible connections and parallels. I would ask the reader to compare his approach to my thesis that the authors of the Gospels were writing prefiguration typology linked to Josephus in sequence. My thesis requires that the connections must occur within small and precise areas of text. He continues:
“If the two authors (Josephus and “John”) were contriving parallels to make a joke or sell any deliberate point, they would have gotten their parallels straight, or at least done a much better job of it. For example, not only must we explain how the family relationship changed, and why Josephus meant to allude to Mary the mother of Jesus yet whoever wrote “John” (also Josephus?) got it wrong and made the corresponding Mary a different Mary not related to Jesus, but also why the names (Lazarus and Eleazar) aren’t even spelled the same, which usually indicates a lack of awareness of one writer by the other, not collusion.
“That the Passover is being turned upside down is given by the fact that those who ate the Passover were specifically avoiding the slaying of their own sons, and sacrifices like this were meant to replace a human (like Isaac) with an animal (Lamb), whereas in this story an animal is replaced with a human, and not just any human, but the very son whose death was supposed to be averted by the Passover.”
Carrier (PhD) then produced his basis for Josephus’s human Passover Lamb; a passage from the OT story in Numbers 12. He wrote:
“Josephus clearly chose the name Mary because this is the name of the sister of Moses, the only prominent woman in the Exodus (hence Passover) narrative, especially given the meaning of her name, as Atwill himself notes: “rebellion.” But this “Mary” (the sister of Moses) is “rebellious” due to the OT legend of Num. 12, not from anything in the NT–where the mother of Jesus is never portrayed as rebellious–whereas the OT Mary is rebellious, and was punished for it: she is the woman whom Aaron begged “Let her not be as one dead, of whom the flesh is half consumed when he cometh out of his mother’s womb” (Num. 12:12).
“A rebellious Mary from the days of the Passover, associated with a half-consumed baby.
Hmmmm. Might that sound like the source of Josephus’ story to you?”
Carrier’s (PhD) future as a literary analyst is perhaps even dimmer than his future as Gadara’s official historian.
His denouncement that “[Atwill] just cherry picks and interprets anything to fit, any way he wants” describes his methodology, not mine. As my thesis posits more than just parallels, but a sequence of parallels between two narratives I must follow very strict rules about where to find each parallel, and always within a narrow block of text. Within a sequence I need to not only find a parallel to the Gospels’ ‘human Passover lamb’ in the correct spot in the narration, but I must also find the next parallel using only the text that immediately follows. I cannot cherry pick, as Carrier (PhD) does, any similarity that might exist within the whole Bible.
Forever a source of irony, Carrier (PhD) falsely accuses me of the sins he repeatedly commits.
Furthermore, he fails to understand how the uniqueness of a concept has a special power in this type of literary analysis. The ‘human Passover lamb’ metaphor used in both Mary’s child in Josephus and Mary’s child in the Gospels is so rare that these are the only two examples in all of literature. To overlook such a unique connection would be impossible for most thinking humans and takes a special kind of perverse persistence that Carrier (PhD) has a special talent for.
His forced version of the ‘human Passover lamb’ parallel from Numbers 12 is a case in point. Carrier (PhD) claimed that someone merely from “the days of the Passover” is a parallel for something as unique as a ‘human Passover lamb.’ In fact, the OT character Miriam is not mentioned during any of the descriptions of the Passover in Exodus and she makes no statement about it. Miriam is no more “associated” to the Passover than any other unnamed Israelite or Egyptian from the story of Exodus. Moreover, the baby suggested to be eaten away by disease in Numbers 12 is not related to either cannibalism or to the Passover in any way and its only ‘connection’ is Carrier’s (PhD) spurious “association” that Miriam was alive during the Passover.
We can again apply Carrier’s (PhD) slander against me as a correct description of his scholarship:
“And once you have to start changing the text all over the place to get what you want, on the basis of no evidence whatever, you are in crank land.”
In Caesar’s Messiah I wrote the following in regards to the relationship between the two ‘human Passover lambs’:
“However, Josephus’s Cannibal Mary passage has a number of concepts and names that are truly parallel to those associated with the New Testament’s symbolic Passover lamb. These are a mother named Mary; a son of Mary; hyssop; one of the instructions regarding the preparation of the Passover lamb – that it be roasted; a son who is a sacrifice; cannibalism; a son who is to become a “myth to the world”; an individual named Lazarus (Eleazar); and Jerusalem as the location of the incident. Moreover, the child in Josephus is a human Passover lamb parallel to the one in the Gospels. It is unlikely that there is another passage in all of literature that contains, by chance, as many as half the number of parallels with a concept as singular a human Passover lamb.”
But Carrier (PhD) saw his parallel as superior: He wrote:
“Atwill tries to find many other parallels between this “myth” and the Gospels, but they all suffer from the same distorted interpretations as the others, and amount to the same tactics of forcing a fit employed by defenders of biblical literalism. In contrast, the links between the context of this myth in Josephus and the OT are much clearer and more obvious, and require no knowledge of Jesus or Christianity, much less imply any comment on them.”
And his coup de grâce: “There is no connection to Jesus here.”
Of course, no sensible person can claim that there is “no connection” between humans who are turned into Passover lambs and, in fact, I can demonstrate that they were deliberately linked. As mentioned above, my theory maintains that a sequence of deliberate parallels exists between two narratives. In this case this means that, if I’m correct, the likelihood that the Josephus’ Cannibal Mary story is connected to Jesus Christ is fortified if the next story in Josephus’ narrative is also parallel to what comes next in the Gospel story. In this case, after the Last Supper, which contains the ‘human Passover lamb’ theme, we of course have the story of Jesus’s crucifixion.
So the question becomes: Is there a parallel to the Gospels’ crucifixion story in Josephus that follows his recording of a human Passover lamb?
There is indeed. This crucifixion tale below and its location in Josephus’s narrative of the war are the ‘gold seal’ of proof that the Jesus/Titus typological mapping was deliberate.
“Moreover, when the city Jerusalem was taken by force…I was sent by Titus Caesar…to a certain village called Thecoa, in order to know whether it were a place fit for a camp; as I came back, I saw many captives crucified, and remembered three of them as my former acquaintance. I was very sorry at this in my mind, and went with tears in my eyes to Titus, and told him of them; so he immediately commanded them to be taken down, and to have the greatest care taken of them, in order to their recovery; yet two of them died under the physician’s hands, while the third recovered.” (Josephus, Life, 75, 417)
The fact that the story that is the closest parallel to the Gospels crucifixion story in literature occurs at exactly the correct place in Josephus’s narrative cannot be accidental. In other words, my thesis is proven and the story of Jesus was fiction created to prefigure Titus, QED.
I sent the parallel to Carrier (PhD) during our email discussion. I wrote:
“The linkage to Jesus’s crucifixion occurs in Josephus, Life, 75. The typology showing that the individual who survives is a messiah is complex and I will only mention here that it exists, but I would note that ‘Joseph of Arimathea’ is an obvious pun upon Joseph bar Mathias.”
Carrier (PhD), amusingly, first insisted that typological parallels must be verbatim:
“Again, why not simply say Barmathias? Why disguise the connection by spelling both names differently? The Gospels also make clear it is a place, not a person ([using the preposition] “from” Arimathaia). And Josephus’s Life says “Matthias” while the Gospels all say -mathaia, yet an intended parallel would employ the same spelling, don’t you think?”
But then, once again, he violated his own absurd principles, and posited a convoluted, and much weaker, replacement: He wrote:
“It is actually a more obvious pun on what the word Arimathea actually means: ‘Best Doctrinetown.’ ”
In a private correspondence with Peter Kirby, Carrier (PhD) explained his speculation: "Is the word a pun on 'best disciple,' ari[stos] mathe[tes]? Matheia means 'disciple town' in Greek; Ari- is a common prefix for superiority." (link)
Notice again how slack Carrier’s (PhD) methods are compared to mine. Like his alternative parallel to the ‘Cannibal Mary’ story where he searched the entire Old Testament for a link, here he scours the entire Greek language for a connection. My thesis, on the hand, cannot venture out of the Jesus/Titus sequence and am therefore confined to precise areas of text to find connections, a vastly more disciplined approach.
Notice that my parallel actually uses only the last name of someone who took a person down from a cross that survived. Carrier’s “Best Doctrinetown” had the entire Greek language to look for the “intended parallel.”
Carrier’s unconvincing ‘Arimathea’ connection actually provides further evidence for my thesis. With the entire Greek language at his disposal Carrier could only generate a very tenuous link to the Gospels. In contrast my methodology, which requires using only a tiny block of text, provided a much more concrete basis for the name Joseph of ‘Arimathea’. The overall pattern of parallels in the two stories shows that the name Joseph of Arimathea was a typological prefiguration of the last name of the ‘Joseph bar Mathias’, the individual who begged the Roman commander to take someone down from the cross who survived during the Jewish war.
It is telling that the author of the Gospel of Barnabas, the mysterious apocryphal Gospel from the 16th century, did not share Carrier’s spurious parallel. That author instead recorded a connection to Josephus.
He wrote: “but by means of Nicodemus and Joseph of Abarimathia; they obtained from the governor the body of Judas to bury it. Whereupon, they took him down from the cross with such weeping as assuredly no one would believe, and buried him in the new sepulchre of Joseph;” Gospel of Barnabas, chapter 217
Finally, Carrier (PhD) and I discussed the parallel that concludes the Gospels and the Jewish War which I call ‘Simon condemned, John spared’ at the end email exchange. I wrote:
“I am certain if you spend a just few minutes comparing the fates of the ‘two sets of leaders of messianic movements in Judea in the second half of the first century engaged in missionary activity’ I am sure you will come to same conclusion I did. Jesus’s prophecy foresees the rebel leaders’ fate.”
Below is the entire passage from the Book of John. Notice how the author of John goes to great lengths to avoid calling the Apostles by their real names, Simon and John.
“Truly, truly, I say to you, when you were young, you girded yourself and walked where you would; but when you are old, you will stretch out your hands, and another will gird you and carry you where you do not wish to go.
(This he said to show by what death he was to glorify God.) And after this he said to him, “Follow me.”
Peter turned and saw following them the disciple whom Jesus loved, who had lain close to his breast at the supper and had said, “Lord, who is it that is going to betray you?”
When Peter saw him, he said to Jesus, “Lord, what about this man?”
Jesus said to him, “If it is my will that he remain until I come, what is that to you? Follow me!”
The saying spread abroad among the brethren that this disciple was not to die; yet Jesus did not say to him that he was not to die, but, “If it is my will that he remain until I come, what is that to you?”
This is the disciple who is bearing witness to these things, and who has written these things; and we know that his testimony is true.” (John 21:18–24)
In Caesar’s Messiah I wrote:
* * *
This passage, which is the conclusion to Jesus’ ministry, is exactly parallel to Titus’ judgments concerning the rebel leaders Simon and John at the conclusion of his campaign through Judea. Thus, at the conclusion of the Gospel above, Jesus tells Simon “when you are old, you will stretch out your hands, and another will gird you and carry you where you do not wish to go.” Jesus tells Simon to “follow me” and that his death will “glorify God.” However, Jesus also states that it is his will that John is to “remain.”
At the conclusion of his campaign through Judea, Titus, after capturing “Simon,” girds him in “bonds” and sends him “where you do not wish to go,” this being Rome. During the parade of conquest at Rome, Simon follows, that is, is “led” to a “death, to glorify God,” the god “glorified” being Titus’ father, the diuus Vespasian. However, it is Titus’ will to spare the other leader of the rebellion, John.
Notice that in the following passage, Josephus records Simon’s fate before John’s, just as it occurs in John 21. A seemingly innocuous detail but one that I will show has great significance.
Simon…was forced to surrender himself, as we shall relate hereafter; so he was reserved for the triumph, and to be then slain; as was John condemned to perpetual imprisonment.
Josephus also records that Jesus’ vision of Simon “following” also comes to pass for the rebel leader Simon.
Simon…had then been led in this triumph among the captives; a rope had also been put upon his head, and he had been drawn into a proper place in the forum.
In the passage from the Gospel of John above, notice that the author does not call the Apostle John by his name but rather as “the disciple whom Jesus loved,” and as the individual who had said at the Last Supper, “Lord, who is it that is going to betray you?” Later in the chapter the author identifies this disciple with yet another epithet when he states, “This is the disciple who testifies of these things, and wrote these things”—even here not referring to John by name but requiring the reader to determine it by knowing the name of the author of the Gospel. The author’s use of epithets here, instead of simply referring to the disciple as “John,” seems clearly an attempt to keep the parallel conclusion of Jesus’ and Titus’ “ministries” from being too easily seen.80 The author also has Jesus call Simon by his nickname, “Peter,” for the same reason.
The same technique is used throughout the New Testament and Wars of the Jews. To learn the name of an unnamed character, the reader must be able to recall details from another, related passage. In effect, the New Testament is designed as a sort of intelligence test, whose true meaning can be understood only by those possessing sufficient memory, logic, and irreverent humor.
For clarification, I present the following list showing the parallels between the ends of Jesus’ ministry and Titus’ campaign:
1) Characters are named Simon and John
2) Both sets of characters are judged
3) Both sides of the parallel occur at the conclusion of a “campaign”
4) Jesus predicts and Titus fulfills Simon going to a martyr’s death after being placed in bonds and taken someplace he does not wish to go
5) In each, John is spared
* * *
Carrier (PhD) did not see any parallelism here, however. He was not even able to see the fact that name of the “beloved disciple” was John.
“I don’t follow you. There is no one named “John” in John 21, except Simon’s father, and that name is only there as a patronymic (it’s Simon’s last name, e.g. Simon Johnson). The “beloved disciple” is never named, but is most probably not someone named John, but Lazarus”
Actually, the author did identify the “beloved disciple” as someone named John. It is obvious to anyone that reads the last verse of the passage in a straightforward manner.
“This is the disciple who is bearing witness to these things, and who has written these things; and we know that his testimony is true.” (John 21:24)
In closing, I would point out that Carrier’s (PhD) chronic invention of ‘facts’ and insipid analysis shows that his claim to scholastic authority is a sham. Carrier’s analysis is so weak as to beg the question of whether or not he is an anomaly. Are his relentless misstatements of facts, weak literary analysis, outright slander and childish insults indicative of the standards of scholarship taught at Columbia University and other PhD programs?
If so, then academia is not protecting the public from ‘cranks’, rather it’s the public that needs protection from the ‘cranks’ that academic institutions produce.
The publishing of this article was delayed as Ryan Gilmore, the organizer of the recent "Covert Messiah" conference in London, attempted to arrange a live debate with Carrier on the "Faith & Skepticism" podcast, which was scheduled for December 3rd 2013. Although my first instinct was not to honor someone who had slandered me, Mr. Gilmore persuaded me that it might be a teaching moment and I agreed to a debate that would cover Carrier’s criticisms point by point.
But the event was recently cancelled by the hosts after a long 6 week correspondence when we finally heard back that Carrier refused to debate his own arguments point-for-point. Why Carrier accepted the idea of a debate at first (especially after repeatedly telling his readers he didn't want to waste any more time on my theories), but then rejected my proposal to debate his own arguments is a mystery.
The hosts of "Faith & Skepticism" had dedicated a good portion of their October 13 2013 episode to criticizing my work from a position of ignorance. So, after they had cancelled the debate, I offered to come on the show alone to explain my thesis and answer any question they or their audience might have. They rejected this offer stating that they 'typically' used the debate format with their guests. This was another mystery as they have often interview single guests.
Caesar's Messiah reader can now post their thoughts on the CM users forum. All analytical efforts are permitted. I want this to be a place that controversy is comfortable.
Learning that Christianity was invented by the Caesars to pacify rebellious populations is disorienting to believing Christians. I believe, however, that this fact will eventually have a different kind of impact upon a far greater audience. In the last hundred years the great destroyer of human life has not been famine or plagues but governments, which always claim to be working in the interests of the people.
It seems no matter who we elect, or what form of political structure we try, the results are the same – financial insecurity for the masses, boundless wealth for a select few, endless wars, and ever increasing military and surveillance technology.
Why is this? Is there some flaw in our nature that makes it impossible for us to elect decent leaders? Some claim that political power always causes men to go mad. Understanding that Christianity was not a religion but a government tool has led me to a different conclusion.
I believe that rulers have never lost the basic understanding that led them to create Christianity, and that this enables them to remain in power no matter what form of government the people attempt. In fact, most forms of government – even the so-called democracies – were either designed to keep power in the hands of the same group, or have been subverted over time to do so. While this idea may seem fantastic, and can be attacked as a “conspiracy theory”, I believe that as the information in Caesar’s Messiah becomes more widely disseminated, many more will come to this conclusion.
You see, Christians were not called sheep for no reason. The goal of Christianity was to turn humans into beasts that could be easily herded. This is not a theory – that goal was achieved during the feudal ages. Though the ideas of human equality developed during the Renaissance presented a challenge to the rulers, I believe that they developed a strategy to survive. Though the identities of the ruling families may have changed, the knowledge of how to create sheep was passed on to the current ruling class.
For sheep to become citizens they will need to understand the tools that have been used to herd them, and this starts with an understanding of Christian origins and of how our rulers use Christianity today – particularly in the United States. They will also need to understand the family and business relationships of the powerful. But, most importantly, they will need to understand how rulers use the media.
Though the United States appears to be a democracy, it is not. It is an oligarchy kept in place by an ancient technique. The political candidates we can choose from, are a tiny group that somehow emerges through a selection process run exclusively by the media. Our current rulers own the media and use it in the same way the Flavians did. They control the ideas and personalities that their population has access to, and thereby shape their minds and limit their choices.
You can only have a lasting power if you control both sides of the political dialectic. So the sheep in America are given the freedom to choose whichever pawn of the military industrial complex they wish. It doesn’t matter if they choose McCain or Obama, the wars will go on.
While Caesar’s Messiah may seem merely a piece of Bible scholarship, it is really much more. It is a way to understand our entire history. And it may contain the path to a better future.
Originally published July 11, 2011
In my book Caesar’s Messiah I showed that the Gospels were a Roman mockery of the Jews’ messianic typology that had been deliberately linked to Josephus’ history. In other words, events in Jesus’ ministry were back-written to foreshadow events from Titus Flavius’ military campaign that culminated with the destruction of the temple of Jerusalem in 70 CE.
The typological system that linked Jesus to Titus was made up of parallel locations, names and concepts that occurred in the same sequence. For example, the Gospels’ story that Jesus came to the Sea of Galilee at the beginning of his ministry and told his disciples that if they followed him they would become fishers of men, was written to “foreshadow” Titus’ beginning his campaign by leading his men to the Sea of Galilee where they fished for men.
While the analysis in the first edition was correct, it was incomplete. It only included the parallels linking Jesus to Titus which I had uncovered at the time I wrote that book. I have just released the second edition of Caesar’s Messiah which presents the discovery that the entire storyline of Jesus’ adult ministry was created as a typological prophecy of Titus Flavius’ military campaign. I have named this discovery “The Flavian Signature”, and believe that the literary device was designed to eventually be discovered and bring Christianity to an end.
I present seven connections from the Flavian Signature below. They are just a small part of the overall typological mapping of the Flavian Signature, which has over 50 connections. None of these parallels were presented in the first edition, though they all fit into the perfect sequence of typological parallels between Jesus and Titus established in that work. To make the sequence easier to follow I have only used parallels found in the Gospel of Luke.
1) Journey from Galilee to Jerusalem, Messengers sent ahead
The new edition reveals a number of overlooked parallels between the physical journeys of Jesus and Titus. Readers of CM will already be aware that the Moses/Jesus typology used the parallel sequence of locations as a part of its typological system, and that the Jesus/Titus typology is an extension of that system.
“Now it came to pass, when the time had come for Him to be received up, that He steadfastly set His face to go to Jerusalem, and sent messengers before His face.” Luke 9:51
“Titus, when he had gotten together part of his forces about him, and had ordered the rest to meet him at Jerusalem, marched out of Cesarea.” Wars of the Jews, 5, 1, 40
2) Divide the group 3 for 2
While many of the Jesus/Titus linkages have been seen by other scholars – though not recognized as being in a parallel sequence – the new edition presents many obvious ones that have been missed. Though the following parallel is easy to spot its meaning is obscure. It is actually a comment on the fighting that Josephus recorded occurred between the “five sons of Maccabee” during the war.
” ‘Do [you] suppose that I came to give peace on earth?
‘I tell you, not at all, but rather division.
‘For from now on five in one house will be divided: three against two, and two against three.’ ” Luke 12:51-53
“These followers of John also did now seize upon this inner temple, and upon all the warlike engines therein, and then ventured to oppose Simon.
And thus that sedition, which had been divided into three factions, was now reduced to two,” Wars of the Jews, 5, 3, 104-105
3) Cut down the fruit tree
The following parallel is a good example of the many seemingly trivial parallels that contribute to the overall pattern. Jesus describes a fruit tree outside of Jerusalem that might be cut down in the future, which Titus then cut down during the war. While trivial parallels do not have much meaning unto themselves, when shown to be a part of a sequence, such parallels confirm that their linkage was deliberate.
” ‘And if it bears fruit, [well]. But if not, after that you can cut it down.’ ” Luke 13:6-9
“So they threw down all the hedges and walls which the inhabitants had made about their gardens and groves of trees, and cut down all the fruit trees that lay between them .” Wars of the Jews 5, 3, 106-107
4) The triumphal entrance and the stones that cried out
A centerpiece of the Flavian Signature is the “triumphant entrances” into Jerusalem. In the passage below, Luke describes Jesus’ entrance into Jerusalem and then “stones” that “cry out,” and things that were “hidden from your eyes”.
“saying: ‘Blessed [is] the King who comes in the name of the LORD! Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!’
And some of the Pharisees called to Him from the crowd, ‘Teacher, rebuke Your disciples.’
But He answered and said to them, ‘I tell you that if these should keep silent, the stones would immediately cry out.’
Now as He drew near, He saw the city and wept over it,
saying, ‘If you had known, even you, especially in this your day, the things [that make] for your peace! But now they are hidden from your eyes.’ ” Luke 19: 35-42
Josephus also describes a “triumphant entrance” into Jerusalem. In other words, Josephus describes Titus’ “entrance” into the city, which were the stones hurled by his catapults. In the passage, Josephus made his famous “mistake”, writing the “Son Cometh” rather than the “Stone Cometh”. Though the apparent blunder has puzzled scholars, simply placing the passage in its correct place in the Jesus/Titus typological sequence makes the meaning of Josephus’ “error” crystal clear.
Notice that Josephus first describes “the coming of the stone”, then a stone that “cries out,” and finally he recorded that the “son/stone” was “hidden from your (the Jews’) eyes”. It is amusing that in Whiston’s translation given below, he inadvertently, but correctly, captures the real meaning of Josephus’ wordplay concerning “stones crying out” with his phrase – “and the stone came from it, and cried out aloud”.
In other words, the Greek statement can be read logically in two ways: one way is just as Jesus predicted – the stone actually cried out. Notice also, that what the stones would “cry out” in the Gospels, was the true identity of the son of God. This is exactly what Josephus recorded the “stone” did in the passage below.
“As for the Jews, they at first watched the coming of the stone, for it was of a white color, and could therefore not only be perceived by the great noise it made, but could be seen also before it came by its brightness;
accordingly the watchmen that sat upon the towers gave them notice when the engine was let go, and the stone came from it, and cried out aloud, in their own country language, ‘THE SON COMETH’ so those that were in its way stood off, and threw themselves down upon the ground; by which means, and by their thus guarding themselves, the stone fell down and did them no harm.
But the Romans contrived how to prevent that by blacking the stone, who then could aim at them with success, when the stone was not discerned beforehand,”
Wars of the Jews 5, 6, 269-273
The above pun on the Hebrew words “ben” and “eben” (son and stone) continues a theme established earlier in the Gospels:
“. . . and do not think to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as [our] father.’ For I say to you that God is able to raise up sons to Abraham from these stones.” Matt 3:9.
To digress, it is extremely important that the Greek word “tekton” in the Gospels be translated correctly as “stonemason” and not, as is usually the case, “carpenter”. This translation is necessary to see the “stone/son” theme in the Gospels and Josephus, which is a mockery of the masonic imagery found in the Dead Sea Scrolls.
5) Jerusalem encircled with a wall
Luke then describes Jesus “envisioning” the encircling of Jerusalem with a wall. The new CM book edition shows that the overall pattern often connects to a parallel like this one that cannot be disputed. Scholars have always recognized that Luke 19:43 was dependent upon Josephus’ description of Jerusalem encircled with a wall, but heretofore have not seen the parallel in the overall pattern.
” ‘For days will come upon you when your enemies will build an embankment around you, surround you and close you in on every side’ ” Luke 19:43-44
Josephus then describes Titus’ encircling of Jerusalem with a wall. This event has always been understood as the basis for Jesus’ prophecy above.
“. . . they must build a wall round about the whole city; which was, he thought, the only way to prevent the Jews from coming out any way,” Wars of the Jews, 5, 12, 499-501
6) Drive out the thieves from the area in front of the temple
Keeping in sequence, Luke recorded that Jesus had an event “foreseeing” Titus’ victory over the “robbers” in the area in front of the Temple. Notice the typological concept of the Jews seeking to “destroy” Jesus.
“Then He went into the temple area and began to drive out those who bought and sold in it, saying to them, ‘It is written, “My house is a house of prayer,” but you have made it a “den of thieves.” ‘ …the chief priests, the scribes, and the leaders of the people sought to destroy Him . . .” Luke 19:45-47
Following the “triumphal entrance” and the encircling of the city with a wall in Josephus, Titus conquered the area in front of the Temple. In other words, the robbers were driven out by the “son of man”. Josephus and the Gospels each used the word “lestes” to describe the “robbers”.
“Then the Romans mounted the breach . . . and all the Jews left the guarding that wall, and retreated to the second wall; so those that had gotten over that wall opened the gates, and received all the army within it.
And thus did the Romans get possession of this first wall on the fifteenth day of the siege . . . ” Wars of the Jews, 5, 7, 301-302
7) The Abomination of Desolation
Another of the incontrovertible parallels found in the Flavian Signature is the “Abomination of Desolation” predicted by Jesus and recorded by Josephus. The passage in Luke that should contain a reference to the AoD does not, though the parallel passage in Matthew does. Notice that the author of Matthew asks that the reader “understand” something about the “Abomination of Desolation”. What the reader needs to “understand” is that by placing typological parallels into one Gospel, and not all 4 books, made the Jesus/Titus typology less obvious.
” ‘Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom.’ ” Luke 21: 10-20
” ‘For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom… Therefore when you see the “abomination of desolation,” spoken of by Daniel the prophet, standing in the holy place (whoever reads, let him understand) . . .’ ” Matt 24:7-15
“on that very day, which was the seventeenth day of Panemus, [Tamuz,] the sacrifice called ‘the Daily Sacrifice’ had failed, and had not been offered to God, for want of men to offer it, and that the people were grievously troubled at it) . . .
. . . And who is there that does not know what the writings of the ancient prophets contain in them, – and particularly that oracle which is just now going to be fulfilled upon this miserable city?” Wars of the Jews, 6, 2, 93-94, 109-110
Whiston noted the “miraculous” date of the Abomination of Desolation in a footnote:
“This was a remarkable day indeed, the seventeenth of Panemus, [Tamuz,] A.D. 70, when, according to Daniel’s prediction, six hundred and six years before, the Romans ‘in half a week caused the sacrifice and oblation to cease,’ Daniel 9:27. For from the month of February, A.D. 66, about which time Vespasian entered on this war, to this very time, was just three years and a half.”
Whiston’s point is that Daniel predicted that the “Abomination of Desolation” would occur in the middle of a “week” or seven years.
“From the time that the daily sacrifice is abolished and the abomination that causes desolation is set up, there will be 1,290 days.” Daniel 12:11
Simply on its face, the fact that Jesus and Josephus both understood Daniel’s prophecy as having come to pass during the Jewish war is suspicious. Jesus could only see this by looking into the future; and the date Josephus recorded the AoD occurred was also “miraculous”. The fact that this dual miracle occurred at the same point in their campaigns seems to lay to rest any question as to whether the linkage was deliberate.
I believe readers will find many of the new insights in the Flavian Signature edition of Caesar’s Messiah to be of interest. It reveals the real identity of “Mary Magdalene” and the actual confession by the Flavians that they invented Christianity.
Originally published June 18, 2011
The real strength of a theory is its explanatory power; how many mysteries it resolves. The Gospels have been one of humankind’s greatest puzzles with even the most basic questions about them never having been answered.
Who wrote them? Why is purportedly Jewish literature anti-Semitic? Why were they written in Greek? How could a pacifistic Christ have emerged during an era when the Jews were at war? Why were four Gospels written and placed into one book? Why are these stories so often contradictory? Who is the Son of Man Jesus predicts will come into Judea with such destruction?
The theory presented in Caesar’s Messiah answers all of these questions and more. In fact it has a virtually complete explanatory power and can explain every line and concept in the Gospels and the historical questions about them as well – I invite you to submit your questions below.
This has more than just implications for New Testament scholarship. I have received many communications from individuals who were struggling with their Christian faith that experienced a great sense of relief upon reading Caesar’s Messiah. The fact that the origins of the Gospels were no longer mysterious but clearly written by Roman Caesars gave them the ability to release from Christian ideas which no longer served them, and begin what was virtually a new life.
I hope all Christians who are struggling with their faith – who see the Gospels as mysterious or simply incoherent – will read Caesar’s Messiah. It could be the beginning of a more expanded and truer life.
One example of the explanatory power of the Caesar’s Messiah thesis is the Trinity – the mysterious “triple godhead” of Christianity. Where did this bizarre and non-Judaic concept come from, and how did it come to play such a large role in the Gospels?
The concept of a divine trinity consisting of a father, son and “Holy Ghost” – the Greek words actually mean “awful spirit” – comes from Josephus. Josephus applies the Jews’ messianic prophecies, not just to Vespasian, but to his dynasty. In other words the real trinity is Vespasian, his son Titus, and his son Domitian – the awful spirit.
I invite other NT (New Testament) scholars to comment on this strange fact. Josephus’ trinity is the only one with any linkages to Christianity whatsoever, and the prophecies he references when describing it are the very ones Jesus used to suggest that the coming “son of Man” would be a “Christ”.
Typology always has two levels – a surface narration and a hidden meaning. Once a reader understands that the Gospels are typology envisioning the Flavians, many ironic double meanings become visible.
In Matthew 3:17 the author recorded that a dove appeared, after which “God the father” spoke and said “This is my beloved son with whom I am well pleased”. In Latin the name “Titus” means “dove”. Thus God the father’s comment on the surface level indicates God the father’s love for his son Jesus Christ. Its real meaning is, however, typological. The event in Matthew 3 foresees Vespasian – “god the father” – being well pleased with his “son of god” the dove – Titus.
Originally published May 30, 2011
When read as Jewish literature, the New Testament Gospels seem to contradict history. They describe a pacifist Jewish Messiah and depict Romans in a positive light during an era when a Jewish messianic movement waged war against the Roman Empire.
To explain these and other contradictory aspects, scholars have speculated that the Gospels were the product of a Roman mystery cult which for some reason merged its theology with messianic Judaism. This theory has a weakness beyond the obvious lack of archaeological evidence. Why would the cult that provided the Gospels its pro-Roman perspective and pacifism have wished to merge with a religion that was anti-Roman and violent?
The discovery of the Jesus/Titus typology, however, reveals not only the real meaning of the Gospels but their authors. They were written by the intellectual circle around the Flavian Caesars.
But how did the creation of the Gospels actually come to pass?
The Gospels grew out of discussions that occurred between Vespasian and Julius Alexander at the court of Antonia, the mother of the Emperor Claudius. The men discussed a topic that was vital to each: how to halt rebellions by messianic Jews. Antonia could well have participated in these talks as she was no stranger to the struggle between the Romans and the Jews. Antonia was the daughter of Marc Anthony, the Roman general who had ousted the Maccabees as the rulers of Judea and replaced them with the Roman tax collectors, the Herods.
The conjecture that such talks occurred comes from these facts: Around 45 C.E. Antonia employed Julius Alexander Lysimarchus as her financial steward. Julius Alexander was the “Abalarch” – the Roman appointed tax collecting ruler of Alexandria. He was the brother of Philo, the Jewish philosopher who combined Judaism with elements of Greek and Roman thought. Philo’s philosophy is often cited as the basis for much of the Gospels’ theological perspective, particularly its blend of Judaism and Stoicism.
Though Philo’s blending of Hellenism and Judaism is routinely analyzed by scholars as sincere, given his family’s financial relationship with Rome some skepticism is warranted. And when understood as the writings of a family member of Rome’s biggest tax collector, Philo’s writings can be seen as an effort to inject Stoicism into Judaism to pacify rebellious Jews.
Antonia also employed Caenis, a woman famous for her memory, as her private secretary. Caenis was the long-term mistress of the future Caesar Vespasian. Suetonius described her as Vespasian’s wife in all but name. Julius Alexander would have discussed with Vespasian how the Jews’ messianic prophecies were, as Josephus later recorded, the mainspring of their rebellion. They would have also discussed Julius’ brother’s work, which attempted to modify Judaism into the peaceful existence in the Empire. From the relationship between Vespasian and Julius, the Flavians, Herods and Alexanders developed a close two-generation relationship.
Julius had two sons. The elder, Marcus, married Berenice, the granddaughter of Herod. After Marcus died at a young age, Berenice became the mistress of Vespasian’s son, Titus. Julius’ younger son, Tiberius Alexander, inherited his father’s entire estate after the death of Marcus, making him one of the richest men in the world. He renounced Judaism and was recorded as slaughtering fifty thousand rebellious Jews in Alexandria. When the Jewish war broke out in 66 CE Tiberius and the Herods assisted the Flavians, contributing money and troops.
During the Jewish war Vespasian challenged Vitellius for the Roman throne in 69CE, and Tiberius was the first to publicly state his allegiance for Vespasian as Caesar. Tiberius declared that Vespasian was not just Caesar, but a “Lord” or a divine being. Vespasian returned to Rome to assume the mantle of emperor, but left Tiberius behind to assist his son Titus with the destruction of Jerusalem.
Though overlooked by NT (New Testament) scholarship, these families are the most obvious candidates to have produced the Gospels. Who else but this group had the motivation, opportunity and the capacity to have written them?
Reading the Gospels as Flavian literature clears up many of their mysteries:
1) Stoicism in the Gospels – The combining of Judaism and Stoicism was an old technique for this group, Philo having developed the technique in the prior generation.
2) The “Logos” – One of the great mysteries of the Gospels is the term “Logos” that appears at the beginning of the Gospel of John. Logos is almost always translated as “word,” though this is not what the author meant and produces an incoherent statement.
John 1:1 – “In the beginning was the Logos, and the Logos was with God, and the Logos was God.”
The concept of the Logos used in the Gospel of John was developed by Philo. He based his concept of Logos on Platonic elements calling it the “idea of ideas” or the “archetypal idea”. Philo’s Logos had a typological relation to man. The Logos was the original type and man is the copy. The purpose of the Logos is to the shape the mind of man. In other words, Philo saw the Logos as a preexisting ideal pattern that earthly man could build his mind upon.
The authors of the NT – the Flavians, Herods and Alexanders – understood Philo’s “Logos” and therefore represented their story of Jesus as an “archetypal idea” which Titus’ military campaign was the continuation of. The concept of Logos would have been understood by a very small group in the first century and was certainly not known by Jewish hoi polloi.
3) The ministry of Jesus – The entire storyline of Jesus’ ministry comes from Titus’ military campaign. Once a reader understands the typological genre, the symbolic parallelism is not too hard to see and of course the parallel events occur in the same sequence.
4) The Gospels’ use of “technical terms” of the Imperial Cult – A great many Greek words used in the NT were what have been called “technical terms” of the Imperial Cult. The use of these terms is not mysterious but to be expected simply because they were the religious words used by the authors.
Originally published October 4, 2011
One question that always comes up when I speak with people who are learning aboutCaesar’s Messiah is this: if the Romans invented Christianity why did they persecute Christians? The question reflects the success the Romans had in confusing people as to who a “Christian” was.
The term “Christian” simply means a follower of a Christ – a leader claiming to have been foreseen by the Jews’ messianic prophecies. The word Kristos is Greek for the Hebrew word Messiah. So while the Romans did indeed persecute “Christians” in the way that history recorded, these were not “Roman Christians” but Jewish zealots.
In trying to sell their new religion to the masses as an authentic version of Judaism, the Romans did more than simply called it “Christianity”. In order to conceal how Roman Christianity began, the Romans stole parts of the history of the Jewish messianic movement to use as the history for their fictitious religion. In other words, since they knew they could not simply evaporate the knowledge of a movement large enough to have fought successfully against the empire, they decided to claim some of that movement’s history as belonging to Roman Christianity.
While this may seem confusing, there is a very simple way to understand what the Romans did and why people today incorrectly believe that Rome persecuted Roman Christians – this is the true history of the characters in the Gospels called Simon and John that is revealed in Caesar’s Messiah.
The following is an excerpt from Caesar’s Messiah:
“The Gospel of John concludes with a discussion between Simon (Peter) and Jesus. Jesus foresees that Simon will be bound and carried ‘where you do not wish to go.’ Jesus also tells Simon that he will have a martyr’s death, ‘to glorify God.’ In the midst of this discussion, ‘the disciple that Jesus loved,’ clearly meaning the Apostle John, appears. Simon asks Jesus what the fate of John is to be. Jesus replies, ‘It is my will that he remain.’ The passage then points out that John ‘is the disciple who is bearing witness to these things, and who has written these things,’ referring to the Gospel of John itself.
Below is the entire passage. Notice how the author goes to great lengths to avoid calling the Apostles by their real names, Simon and John.
‘Truly, truly, I say to you, when you were young, you girded yourself and walked where you would; but when you are old, you will stretch out your hands, and another will gird you and carry you where you do not wish to go.’
(This he said to show by what death he was to glorify God.) And after this he said to him, ‘Follow me.’
Peter turned and saw following them the disciple whom Jesus loved, who had lain close to his breast at the supper and had said, ‘Lord, who is it that is going to betray you?’
When Peter saw him, he said to Jesus, ‘Lord, what about this man?’
Jesus said to him, ‘If it is my will that he remain until I come, what is that to you? Follow me!’
The saying spread abroad among the brethren that this disciple was not to die; yet Jesus did not say to him that he was not to die, but, ‘If it is my will that he remain until I come, what is that to you?’
This is the disciple who is bearing witness to these things, and who has written these things; and we know that his testimony is true.
This passage, which is the conclusion to Jesus’ ministry, is exactly parallel to Titus’ judgments concerning the rebel leaders Simon and John at the conclusion of his campaign through Judea. Thus, at the conclusion of the Gospel above, Jesus tells Simon ‘when you are old, you will stretch out your hands, and another will gird you and carry you where you do not wish to go.’ Jesus tells Simon to ‘follow me’ and that his death will ‘glorify God.’ However, Jesus also states that it is his will that John is to ‘remain.’
At the conclusion of his campaign through Judea, Titus, after capturing ‘Simon,’ girds him in ‘bonds’ and sends him ‘where you do not wish to go,’ this being Rome. During the parade of conquest at Rome, Simon follows, that is, is ‘led’ to a ‘death, to glorify God,’ the god ‘glorified’ being Titus’ father, the diuus Vespasian. However, it is Titus’ will to spare the other leader of the rebellion, John.
Notice that in the following passage, Josephus records Simon’s fate before John’s, just as it occurs in John 21. A seemingly innocuous detail but one that I will show has great significance.
Simon . . . was forced to surrender himself, as we shall relate hereafter; so he was reserved for the triumph, and to be then slain; as was John condemned to perpetual imprisonment. 78
Josephus also records that Jesus’ vision of Simon ‘following’ also comes to pass for the rebel leader Simon.
Simon . . . had then been led in this triumph among the captives; a rope had also been put upon his head, and he had been drawn into a proper place in the forum. 79
In the passage from the Gospel of John above, notice that the author does not call the Apostle John by his name but rather as ‘the disciple whom Jesus loved,’ and as the individual who had said at the Last Supper, ‘Lord, who is it that is going to betray you?’ Later in the chapter the author identifies this disciple with yet another epithet when he states, ‘This is the disciple who testifies of these things, and wrote these things’—even here not referring to John by name but requiring the reader to determine it by knowing the name of the author of the Gospel.
The author’s use of epithets here, instead of simply referring to the disciple as ‘John,’ seems clearly an attempt to keep the parallel conclusion of Jesus’ and Titus’ ‘ministries’ from being too easily seen.80 The author also has Jesus call Simon by his nickname, ‘Peter,’ for the same reason.
The same technique is used throughout the New Testament and Wars of the Jews. To learn the name of an unnamed character, the reader must be able to recall details from another, related passage. In effect, the New Testament is designed as a sort of intelligence test, whose true meaning can be understood only by those possessing sufficient memory, logic, and irreverent humor.
For clarification, I present the following list showing the parallels between the ends of Jesus’ ministry and Titus’ campaign:
1) Characters are named Simon and John
2) Both sets of characters are judged
3) Both sides of the parallel occur at the conclusion of a ‘campaign’
4) Jesus predicts and Titus fulfills Simon going to a martyr’s death after being placed in bonds and taken someplace he does not wish to go
5) In each, John is spared
6) In each, Simon ‘follows’ ”
This analysis makes everything clear. In order to give their new Christianity a believable history, the Romans stole the positions of authority and the fates of the rebel leaders Simon and John. They made these individuals into Simon and John the disciples of Jesus Christ. The true history shows us that while the Romans did persecute Christians, these were Jewish zealots, not the Roman Christians.
Originally published September 2, 2011
Atwill is an independent scholar who has set the world of New Testament scholarship in a new direction.