Monday, March 28, 2016

Messages for Larry Hurtado

Caiaphus and Eleazar

Sounding the praises of his former PhD student, Larry writes: " I’m pleased to note a newly published book by a former PhD student: Derek R. Brown, The God of This Age: Satan in the Churches and Letters of the Apostle Paul (WUNT 2.409; Tuebingen: Mohr Siebeck, 2015). This is a lightly revised form of Brown’s PhD thesis submitted here in 2011." (See

Is it just another book where the mistakes of past scholars are repeated, as they have been down the years? I guess it will gather dust and be read by few.

Larry, just as Jesus (and John the baptist) were substitutes for Caiaphus, so Paul (and Barabbas) were substitutes for Caiaphus’s son Eleazar. Caiaphus and Eleazar, rebel priests, made an agreement with the king Aristobulus not to cause trouble in Judea – Caiaphus and Eleazar had persecuted the prophets. History was rewritten to have Paul persecuting the Christians. Then Paul was supposedly converted and forgiven by Ananias, but the ‘disciples’ were still afraid of Paul. The reality was that Caiaphus and Eleazar were forgiven by Aristobulus and released from prison (as Barabbas was), but Aristobulus remained afraid of them. The pair travelled around the diaspora synagogues (as supposedly Paul and Luke did) preaching a messianic message to initiate an uprising. They kept away from Jerusalem and Rome (just as Paul and presumably Luke did).  Caiaphus and his son Eleazar belonged to the priests who wrote the Scrolls found in the Judean desert.

Failing to convince the Jews they visited (just as Paul failed to convince the Jews of his supposed message), the two came back to Judea and gathered an army, largely of priests, that attacked the fortress of Machaerus. This while Aristobulus had gone to Rome to report the increasing trouble. The attack was not a surprise to Aristobulus’s general in Machaerus. The rebels were beaten back and Caiaphus and Eleazar were imprisoned. Caiaphus was beheaded.

Larry thinks I am off the wall. He wrote in an email:


Really, with great reluctance, I have to say that your latest comment (and pretty much all preceding ones too) is sooo off the wall, and so entirely off the subject, that it's breathtaking. So, as so often, I won't bother posting it. I guess you must enjoy your own private world, but it's not the universe that scholars in the realia of ancient history, early Christianity, Roman history, etc., live in.

No need to try to "reason" with me, Geoff. I'm beyond hope I guess from your standpoint (wherever you derive it from).


L. W. Hurtado (Emeritus Professor of New Testament Language, Literature & Theology)
School of Divinity (New College)
University of Edinburgh
Edinburgh, EH1 2LX
Office Phone: (0044) (0)131 650 8920

The normality of 'Christianity' in the Roman world

Larry is promoting his books again. He must suffer from a need to write. He writes: " I’ve just had word that my forthcoming book, Destroyer of the Gods: Early Christian Distinctiveness in the Roman World (Baylor University Press, Sept 2016) is available for pre-order." (See

But, Larry I've got news you. Your early Christianity was NOT distinctive in a Roman world. It was created like any other religion accepted by Rome with a god Jesus and a sacrifice which was repeated in the communion of Rome - this is my body and my blood. The original sacrifice-rejecting religion came from the prophets of Judea who had their 'own sacrifices', at the altar of incense where they worshipped God in Spirit. These were the CHRISTIANOS (anointed ones) of the Pompeii grafitii and Acts. They had given up on sacrifice from the time of Judas Maccabeus.

The Retreating Claim of an Early NT Textual Recension

Larry you wrote: “We know that Roman-era writers typically drew upon other writings loosely, and often deliberately did so. That was a feature of rhetorical and writing practices of that time. But it is not indicative of how copyists treated the task of transmitting texts in manuscripts.”

But Larry you are assuming that the earliest writers were copyists as you defined them, and not editors rewriting the text. There was a stage or stages when the text was being created. Gregory Sterling the Dean of Yale Divinity School wrote (see page 104 of Understanding Josephus edited by Steve Mason) some comments on how ancient historians went about their business. Sterling (taking aim at his foot) says:

1. The practice of rewriting texts and offering the retelling as an authorial composition was common in antiquity. Historians of events situated in the distant past often made a virtue out of necessity by rewriting existing literary sources. (Were the historians fabricating or were they telling downright lies? Did they quote supposed authors who had no sources?)

2. Imitations of a past author’s style or spirit was acceptable: slavish reproductions were open to the charge of plagiarism. (So imitating a past author’s style or spirit was acceptable; really!! And if you could get away with it so were slavish reproductions or plagiarism)

3. Eastern peoples also rewrote texts although not always for the same reasons as their counterparts in the West. (And even westerners were not innocent! Well!! Well!!)

4. These traditions converge in the Jewish Antiquities of Josephus. (This is academic speak for its all there in Josephus. Apparently, Josephus calls his retellings a “translation from the Hebrew”, would you believe).

Such was the approach taken by writers during the first century. Did those very same traditions apply when the New Testament writings were first produced? I happen to think those writings were not produced through “tradition” (an academic get out of jail free term) but were calculated and deliberate.

Monday, February 01, 2016

[Paul's] {Seneca's} Letter to [Titus] {James}

Chapter 1

1.[Paul] {Seneca}, a servant

[of God and an apostle of Jesus Christ for the faith]

of God’s {elect} {spirit}

[and the knowledge of the truth that leads to godliness—
2.a faith and knowledge resting on the hope of eternal life, which God who does not lie,]

promised before the beginning of time,

3.and at his appointed season he brought his [word] {spirit} to light

[through the preaching entrusted to me by the command of God our Savior],

4.To [Titus] {James}, my true [son] {brother}

[in our common faith: Grace and peace from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Savior.]

5.The reason I left you in [Crete] {Rome} was that you might straighten out what was left unfinished and appoint elders [in every town], as I directed you.

6.An elder must be blameless, the husband of but one wife, a man whose children [believe] {obey} and are not open to the charge of being [wild and] disobedient.

7.Since an overseer is entrusted with God’s work, he must be blameless—not overbearing, not quick-tempered, not given to drunkenness, not violent, not pursuing dishonest gain.

8.Rather he must be hospitable, one who loves what is good, who is self-controlled, upright, holy and disciplined.

9.He must hold firmly to the [trustworthy message] {spirit} as it has been [taught], {proclaimed} so that he can encourage others [by sound doctrine] and refute those who oppose it.

10.For there are many [rebellious people, mere talkers and deceivers] {spirits of deceit}, especially those [of the circumcision group] {who were priests}.

11.They must be silenced, because they are ruining whole households by teaching things they ought not to teach—and that for the sake of dishonest gain.

12.Even one of their own [prophets] {kings} has said,
“[Cretans] {All men} are [always] liars [evil brutes, lazy gluttons] .” (PS.116:11)

13.This testimony is true. Therefore, rebuke them sharply, so that they will be [sound] {pure} in the [faith] {spirit}

14.and will pay no attention to Jewish [myths] {laws}

[or to the commands of those who reject the truth].

15.To the pure, all things are pure, but to those who are corrupted [and do not believe] , nothing is pure.  In fact, both their minds and consciences are corrupted.

16.They claim to [know] {understand} God, but by their actions they deny him.
They are detestable, disobedient and unfit for doing anything good.

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

[Paul's] {James's} Letter to [2 Timothy] {Seneca}


It is obvious that 'Christ Jesus' is an interpolation or insertion.    

That there had been an outburst of persecution among the believers in Rome is also obvious. The religion of these folk had nothing to do with an imaginary Jesus.  It had a Jewish origin among the prophets.  It was routed in the spirit of God indwelling each individual from birth.  I am convinced that the person being addressed was indeed Seneca who went into exile.  

The spirit was thought to have passed down through mothers.  I don't know who Seneca's grand mother and mother were but Seneca certainly wrote about them. The spirit sustained life.  It could be fanned into 'flame'. 

James's theology is heavily coloured by stoic ideas which would undoubtedly have appealed to Seneca.  I think it went further than merely 'appealing', to believing what James taught about the spirit.  The deaths of a number of people were linked to that persecution.  I include the deaths of Nero, his wife Poppea, his mother Agrippina, Seneca, Burrus and Epaphroditus.  I can only think that they were murdered by those opposed to the introduction of a Jewish prophetic religion with its indwelling of the spirit of God.   The historians gave unbelievable, fabricated accounts of their deaths.  This was a persecution of CHRISTIANOS, a latin name found at Pompeii visited by the elite Roman rulers.  

Chapter 1

1. [Paul} {James}, an apostle [of Christ Jesus] by the will of God, according to the promise of [life] {glory} that is in [Christ Jesus] {the spirit}. 

2.To [Timothy] {Seneca}, my dear [son] {brother}: Grace, mercy and peace from God the Father and Christ Jesus] our Lord.  

3. I thank God, whom I serve, as my forefathers did, with a [clear conscience] {spirit of truth}, as night and day I constantly remember you in my prayers. 

4. Recalling your tears, I long to see you, so that I may be filled with joy. 

5. I have been reminded of your [sincere faith] {spirit of truth}, which first lived in your grandmother Lois and in your mother Eunice and, I am persuaded, now lives in you also. 

6. For this reason I remind you to fan into flame the gift of God, which is in you [through the laying on of my hands]. 

7. For God did not give us a spirit of timidity, but a spirit of power, of love and of self-discipline.

8. So do not be ashamed to testify about our Lord, or ashamed of [me] his [prisoner] {spirit}. 

But join with me in suffering for the [gospel] {spirit}, [by] the power of God 

9. who has [saved] {purified} us and called us to a holy life 
[-- not because of anything we have done but because of his own purpose and grace].

This [grace} {spirit} was given us [in Christ Jesus] before the beginning of time,

10. but it has now been revealed

[through the appearing of our Saviour, Christ Jesus, who has destroyed death and has brought life and immortality to light through the gospel}. 

11. And of [the gospel] {the spirit} I was appointed a herald and an apostle and a teacher. 

12. That is why I am suffering as I am.  Yet I am not ashamed, because I know whom I have believed, and am convinced that he is able to guard what I have entrusted to him for that day.

13. What you heard from me, keep as the pattern of sound teaching, [with faith and love in Christ Jesus]. 

14. Guard the good deposit that was entrusted to you [-- guard it] with the help of the holy spirit who lives in us.

15. You know that everyone in [Asia] {Rome} has deserted {me}
[, including Phygelus and Hermogenes]. 

16. May the Lord show mercy to [the] {your} household [of Onesiphorus], because [he] {you} [often refreshed me and was] {were} not ashamed of [my chains] {the spirit}. 

17. On the contrary, when [I] {you} [was] {were} in Rome, [he] {you} [searched] {worked} hard for [me] {the Lord}
[ until he found me] .

18. May the Lord grant that [he] {you} will find mercy [from the Lord] on that day! 

 [You know very well in how many ways he helped me in Rome.]

Thursday, January 07, 2016

The Prophets were called by the Latin CHRISTIANOS in Rome (and anywhere else in Italy)


11.26.[and when he found him, he brought him to Antioch.] 

So for a whole year [Barnabas and Saul met with the church and] {I} taught great numbers of [people] {Jews}.  The disciples were called Christians (CHRISTIANOS) [first] at [Antioch] {Rome} .

11.27.During this time some prophets came [down] from Jerusalem to [Antioch] {Rome}.

11.28.One of them, named Agabus stood up, and through the Spirit, warned [them] {us} that a severe [famine] {persecution} would spread over [the entire Roman world] {Judea}.

[This happened during the reign of Claudius].

11.29.The disciples, each according to his ability, decided to provide help for the brothers living in Judea

11.30.This they did, sending their gift to [the elders] {Jerusalem} [by] {with} [Barnabas and Saul]  {Agabus}.

The above passage is from Acts 11.  Some prophets, quite clearly friends of the writer, had come from Jerusalem.  The word 'down' has been added to match with Antioch which was north of Jerusalem.  I say they had come to Rome, and that Antioch was false.  The prophets had come to warn their fellow prophets (then junior prophets or disciples) that persecution would spread over the whole of Judea, the editor's subliminal 'entire Roman world' (Jewish prophets would hardly know what was going to happen in the 'entire Roman world'). The persecution would, of course, come from the priests (who were later flee Jerusalem to dump their scrolls in the Judean desert).  The prophet Agabus stood up and gave the warning through the Spirit (as prophets stood and spoke in a normal meeting). The prophets were trying to drum up support for their fellow prophets in Judea. It was perfectly natural for the prophets of Rome to send money to help fellow prophets in Jerusalem.  The money would have been taken by Agabus and the prophets who had come with him.  

The editor knew full well that a food shortage in Rome occured during the reign of Claudius around the time the prophets had come from Jerusalem.  Hence he inserted the note "this happened during the reign of Claudius".  Of course this coincidence was also well known by Tacitus, Suetonius and Dio, the state sponsored historians of the Flavians.      


The inscription CHRISTIANOS was among the graffiti discovered at Pompeii in 1862 by the German archaeologist Alfred Keisling.   

Thursday, December 24, 2015

Larry's multiple "bad guy" reports of Nero

Larry, don’t you think that the historians mockery of Nero had its origins in the jealousy of later emperors who of course could influence others with a heavy hand?

How could later emperors be jealous of Nero?? He hardly had a good reputation to be jealous of! When you have multiple “bad-guy” reports, it’s hard simply to write them off.

Geoff (Not published by Larry)
Larry, but the multiple “bad guy” reports were written by the employees of the Flavian emperors shortly after Nero’s death. Was it 14 years Nero was emperor? Yet I cannot recall one sign of any assassination attempt, so the populace at least must have been satisfied with him. And anyone who takes part in chariot racing on a circuit must be extremely brave, to be admired, and no mean athlete, don’t you agree? Just the sort of person to lead an army!  Given his passion for the arts and music it seems as though he was a very well balanced fellow indeed. The reputation of the Flavians is badly tarnished by what they did with the spoils from the temple, and that with no reprimand from any historian of the time.  Do you believe the history handed down to us by such people?

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

How the Writings Attributed to Josephus Were Produced (Mason's interpretation is totally wrong)

Gregory Sterling the Dean of Yale Divinity School wrote (see page 104 of Understanding Josephus edited by Steve Mason) some comments on how ancient historians went about their business.  Sterling (taking aim at his foot) says:

1. The practice of rewriting texts and offering the retelling as an authorial composition was common in antiquity.  Historians of events situated in the distant past often made a virtue out of necessity by rewriting existing literary sources. (Were the historians fabricating or were they telling downright lies?  Did they quote supposed authors who had no sources?)

2. Imitations of a past author's style or spirit was acceptable: slavish reproductions were open to the charge of plagiarism.  (So imitating a past author's style or spirit was acceptable; really!!  And if you could get away with it so were slavish reproductions or plagiarism)

3. Eastern peoples also rewrote texts although not always for the same reasons as their counterparts in the West.  (And even westerners were not innocent! Well!! Well!!)  

4. These traditions converge in the Jewish Antiquities of Josephus. (This is academic speak for its all there in Josephus.  Apparently, Josephus calls his retellings a "translation from the Hebrew", would you believe, i.e. Antiquities was not originally written in Greek. Josephus was not the original writer of Antiquities.  Antiquities was in existence before Josephus came on the scene in Rome.  It did finish up in Greek after Josephus had translated and edited it making numerous interpolations.  It was more than likely originally written in Latin which our priest Josephus would laboriously have had to learn, he being familiar with Greek.  Whereas War was written (conjured up) on a blank sheet from scratch in Greek. 

So now you know how the writings attributed to Josephus were produced.  The Christian Gregory Sterling has educated us.  And Steve Mason, another Christian, has given his blessing to what Gregory wrote.  May be they are not blinded by their faith after all.  But it has a modern day ring.  For isn't that how much theological stuff is produced, by professors and their Ph.D students alike, building packs of cards citing one another?  

But is the explanation of the lies in Josephus so simple as that?

Mason Has Done a Runner 

He has been appointed to the Chair in Ancient Mediterranean Religions and Cultures at the University of Groningen. He says "My move to Groningen is bringing me back to my main career trajectory". The Chair was established by the Dean of the Faculty, Prof. Kocku von Stuckrad, and Prof. Mladen Popović, Chair of the Department of Jewish, Christian, and Islamic Origins and Director of the Qumran Institute, which Mason became a member of. Mladen Popović says: “Steve is a great addition to the Faculty. He is an international authority and senior scholar in Jewish and Early Christian religion and culture in Judaea and the Roman Empire. With the leading commentary series on Flavius Josephus he makes a fundamental contribution to the unlocking of this uniquely important Jewish historian for the wider study of classical antiquity. Mason builds bridges between different disciplines that are concerned with the ancient Mediterranean, and he is capable of making connections to modern issues of, for instance, politics and international relations. Building bridges around the ancient Mediterranean can be seen as the common thread that runs through Mason’s career; bridges between disciplines and between ancient and modern times. He studied Judaism and Early Christianity at McMaster University (Hamilton, Canada). After his Ph.D. (University of St. Michael's College, 1986, by way of the universities of Jerusalem and Tübingen) he worked at The Pennsylvania State University, as Head of Classics and Ancient Mediterranean Studies, and at Toronto’s York University, most recently as Canada Research Chair in Greco-Roman Cultural Interaction. Since 2011 he has held the Kirby Laing Chair in New Testament at the University of Aberdeen. Mason was the first Dirk Smilde Fellow at the Qumran Institute in Groningen from January through May 2014. Mason explains that his appointment in Groningen is bringing him back to his main career trajectory: the integration of ancient Mediterranean studies: “My recent Chair in New Testament, an accommodation to established disciplinary boundaries, was a departure from my main career trajectory. The move to Groningen is bringing me back to the interdisciplinary study of ancient history, texts, and cultures. I believe that a critical understanding of our shared past, recent and ancient, throws light on our modern identities, including the sources and potential resolutions of conflict. This is a vision that I know I share with my colleagues in Groningen.”  I am sorry, but you are going to be stuck with your original image of a Josephus expert for a long time.  It's an uncomfortable status to have.

Mason's 'Critical Understanding'

So long as it doesn't contradict his Christian beliefs!  Typically, his beliefs get in the way of truth, as with most Christian scholars.  He has not picked-up on the many fabrications and interpolations in the writings attributed to Josephus presented as history.  Like most other commentators with a faith background he takes events in that literature literally.  He joins Martin Goodman, Barbara Levick and many others.  Mason believes what Josephus wrote.  

When was Antiquities Written? Was there an Earlier Version?   

On page 64 of Understanding Josephus, Mason asks a number of questions, which he rather arrogantly claims he is asking for the first time: "For whom did Josephus write, and what did he mean to tell them?  How can we match what is in his works to the particular social situations in which he wrote? How did his first hearers and readers in Rome understand his lengthy treatise?"

It didn't occur to Mason to ask when Antiquities was written?  Given Gregory Sterling's comments about the way historians rewrote ancient texts, this is a fair question for such a large work.  According to Note 3 to the Preface of Antiquities, it was published in CE 93 about 18 years after War. Mason believes this.  He writes in Josephus and the New Testament (page 102): "We can decide the matter for Josephus only by asking whether there were Gentiles in Rome at the end of the first century who were eager to learn about Judaism."  He assumes with other scholars that Antiquities was written at the end of the first century.  You don't have to be a Mason to recognise that Antiquities is replete with interpolations (many obvious with no context) and editorial.  These are sure signs of a document that has been written originally and then tampered with.  The 'matter' of Gentiles being interested in Judaism had surfaced in the court of the emperor Claudius, and probably a long time before that. 

Greeks had been in Rome for a long time.  Greek although despised by the Roman elite, was well understood by them.  So had a request been made by someone in the Roman elite for a history of the Jews, written in Greek, before Josephus produced his version?  Did Josephus do what many ancient writers did, and edit or rewrite someone else's Antiquities? And was the purpose of an original Antiquities similar to the version produced by Josephus, but different in some way, not only in its content, but in its language?  Was Antiquities written in Greek, as most think?  Because of the length of time it would have taken to write, an earlier version (the original) would have been written well before any 'war' with the Romans. 

Mason admits (page 103): "Among the Roman elite this basic worldview (of moral deterioration) became ever more concrete in the face of a perceived rise in corruption, crime, social dislocation, violence, and political upheaval."  Paul Berry writes extensively in the Christian Inscription at Pompeii, that the Romans regarded the Greek people and language as beneath them.  Berry actually devotes 6 pages of his book  (p.40-45) to the subject.  He says they did not consider fluency in Greek in keeping with the Roman character.  In one of his citations, he quotes the Roman poet Juvenal, who describes the clatter of the back streets: "All that Greek!  When it should be so much the greater shame not to fully command our Latin.  They simply tremble in that lingo -- their ire, their gaiety, their woe -- all poured forth from the inmost soul.  How else?  In that baby-talk Greek.  Permissible maybe in girls, yet even those eighty-six years old still vibrating in Greek?  A deplorable speech for the mature."   So given this low opinion of Greek by the Roman elite, why did Josephus write his classical works in Greek and not Latin?  He was supposed to be writing for the Flavians.  Could it have been because he did not have a good understanding of Latin?       

In the Preface to Antiquities, Josephus says it was "a large subject", and very strangely , "it was "difficult to translate", so the "work went slowly".  Translate into Greek from which language?  Greek was supposed to have been well understood by priests and Jews in general, and they had the Jewish bible in Greek.  And why a translation at all if Josephus was the original writer?   The answer must be that Antiquities was originally written in Latin by a different Jew who had lived in Rome for a long time and had mixed with the Roman elite from whom he had learned the language.  Josephus found the translation of that original Antiquities difficult because it was written in Latin, and he was having trouble learning it. 

Josephus continues in the Preface to Antiquities: "since I was myself interested in that war which we Jews had with the Romans, and knew myself its particular actions, and what conclusion it had, I was forced to give the history of it, because I saw others perverted the truth of those actions in their writings."  Josephus speaks of "we Jews" as though he was speaking for all Jews.  We know that certain groups of Jews have argued for centuries.  He cannot be speaking for all Jews. The "others" obviously had a different opinion of what happened.  So who were the "others"?  Josephus doesn't say.  The main extant written evidence for the war is apparently from Josephus.  Was Josephus's War fabricated while under duress?  He admits that he was "forced" to write War.  Was Josephus writing under pressure yet secretly telling the reader that he was not being truthful?  One has to suspect that the "others" who were perverting the truth were the Flavians, and that Josephus was forced to write falsely by them.  Josephus was in effect a captured priest, and a slave.  Was his writing a survival strategy?  There is no archaeological evidence of any war in Galilee.  The only place where there is archaeological evidence is Judea.  Yet Josephus claims he knew of "its particular actions" mostly in Galilee where he supposedly organised defences.   So was he writing what he had been told to write by his Flavian masters?  Did the Romans want to conceal what really happened?  Did Vespasian misclaim a great victory over the Jews?  He had form.  He apparently arranged a misclaimed victory for Claudius in Britain.   Who were the 800 or so Jewish prisoners that Vespasian took to Rome for his triumph?  Why so few Jewish prisoners?  I say they were prophets who had defended the temple and tried to prevent its destruction.  Why didn't Josephus write about the wealth and power that Vespasian gained after his destruction of the temple?  It is very hard to believe that a priest would have written as he did, if he had a choice.  There must have been a mutual agreement that was convenient for the Flavians and the priest Josephus?  The Romans would surely not have allowed the Jews develop their religion completely independently.  The aim of both parties was to eliminate the prophets from history.  The prophets were an embarrassment to Vespasian because they knew the truth about the fake war, and they were bitter enemies of the priests.  So what did happen to the prophets?   

The Preface to Antiquities continues: "And indeed I did formerly intend, when I wrote of the war, to explain who the Jews originally were, what fortunes they had been subject to, and by what legislature they had been instructed in piety, and the exercise of other virtues, what wars they also had in remote ages, until they were unwillingly engaged in this last with the Romans." 
In the short space of the two pages of the Preface, the words law, or lawgiver or legislator occur 12 times.  Josephus's aim is clear.  He sees the legislator Moses as the dispenser of Gods' laws which if a person obeys he will have "perfect virtue".  But Moses was not of the tribe of Aaron and therefore not a high priest or priest which Josephus supports.   Moses not only legislated for priests but prophets also.  In his books Understanding Josephus, and Josephus, Judea and Christian Origins, Mason doesn't mention prophets once.  What did happen to the prophets?  Moses said,  "I wish that all the Lord's people were prophets and that the Lord would put his Spirit on them" (Num.11.29).   And "he (Moses) took the Spirit that was on him and put the Spirit on the seventy elders.  When the Spirit rested upon them, they prophesied, but they did not do so again" (Num.11.25).  The footnote has: or, "they prophesied and continued to do so".  "Moses placed the gold altar in the Tent of Meeting in front of the curtain and then burned incense on it." (Ex.40.26).  I suggest that the prophets have been written out of history, and hence out of Antiquities, by Josephus with the mutual agreement of the Romans. Josephus favoured the priests and hated the prophets.  The prophets knew that the war had been on a much smaller scale with Nero's army defeating the priests at Qumran, Machaerus and Masada in 66 CE.  The Flavians hated the prophets because they had resisted the destruction of the temple five years after Nero had left Judea for his Greek holiday.  The prophets knew that Vespasian's war was misclaimed.  Vespasian didn't like the idea of prophets giving away his secret.   

In writing his version of Antiquities, Josephus says in the Preface that he was "imitating the generosity of the high priest Eleazar" who supposedly shared the Jewish laws with the Egyptian king Ptolemy II.  But Eleazar didn't appear that generous, because Josephus says the interpreters that Eleazar supposedly sent to Alexandria gave Ptolemy "only the books of the law" ("while there were a number of other matters in our sacred books").  So this was how Josephus was going to imitate the generosity of "our high priest".  This is inconsistent with the actual story in Antiquities.  It is also clear that Josephus is a supporter of  high priests.  The whole story is a pack of lies.  There were tens of thousand Jews living in Egypt at the time.  Many would have understood Hebrew and Greek, and be able to translate from one language to the other.  Also there was a temple at Leontopolis in Egypt which presumably was different in some way from that in Jerusalem.  It probably did not have animal sacrifice.  There would have been Jews there who were capable translators.  In the text of Josephus, it is quite clear that the Jews of Egypt (supporters of prophets) and the Jews of Judea (supporters of priests)  were enemies.  Josephus probably didn't like to think that the Jews of Egypt were capable of translating the Jewish bible.  Again we have the all inclusive  "the Jews".  But was it a particular group of Jews who really were looking for a fight with the Romans?   In War, Josephus has several groups including zealots and sicarrii (a latin word) only too willing to do so, especially those who defended Jerusalem.  Yet here there is no evidence of any siege activity by Roman forces.  In fact the only archaeological evidence of Roman attacks anywhere is at Qumran, Masada and Machaerus.  

Josephus has it that Epaphroditus encouraged him to get on with his Antiquities as he and other Greeks were keen to know the history of "our nation".  I only know one such Epaphroditus. He was Nero's secretary, Tiberias Claudius Epaphroditus.  But that Epaphroditus was earlier than the time Josephus was supposed to have written Antiquities.  And do you think that the secretary to Nero would have known Latin?  You bet he did.  Epaphroditus was keen for Claudius and the rest of the Roman elite to know about the form of Judaism practiced by this original writer of Antiquities, but it would have to be in Latin. 

Does this all sound somewhat suspicious?  Do you think Josephus was a fraudster? 

Larry Loves to Cut and Run 

I wrote to his blog
Of course the codex was the principal method of transmitting propaganda. The editing of Antiquities and the writing of War are two prime examples. Never mind that the historians of the day used the codex also to write their histories at the behest of their masters, the Flavians. How else would Josephus have interpolated 13.5.9 to the time of Antiochus (about Essenes, Pharisees and Sadducees) into Antiquities. So many witnesses you say to Nero being bad, that they must be believed! Well, I would remind you of a number of a number deaths at the time: Nero, Agrippina, Poppea, Burrus, Epaphroditus and Seneca. I find it much more difficult to accept that these were not murdered by the same elite who mocked Nero. Dirty business and the creation of the codex went together.  

Larry replied:
"I presume that you have some basis for your wild claim about “the codex was the principal method of transmitting propaganda”: Some actual manuscripts, for example? Some textual references to that effect? Or (as I suspect) your own imagination?  
Ancient writers used wooden-frame tablets (wax writing surface) often for making notes, drafting preliminary thoughts, etc., to be sure. But the published version of literary texts was a bookroll. Which we can establish if you care to consult the 14,000 plus items on the LDAB database.  As for your final comments, I have no idea what you mean, “dirty business and the creation of the codex went together,” but, Geoff, it all sounds rather raving loony."

Well Larry, you knew what you were asking for when you wrote "some actual manuscripts, for example?"  It appears that only one fragment of a parchment manuscript from the time of Josephus does exist (See below).  

Then I wrote to a latin Scholar
I wrote to a Latin scholar (a professor) the following email dated  22/02/2016: "I am interested in the earliest codices used in Rome.  What I am interested in is the possibility that the codex was used by the elite for communicating propaganda. I believe Martial had some of his poems produced in codex form and sold in a shop. It seems to me that the contemporary elite would have spotted an opportunity before the technology was available in a shop."  
The reply came back on the same day: "That is certainly a possibility. The whole history of the transition from roll to codex is more complicated than people often imagine." 

My replies to Larry's Blog which he refused to publish

Larry loves to take the mick but won't allow a response - I wrote several replies to his blog but he refused to publish them.  I wrote:  

1. "Larry, I don’t think my comment about Ant.13.5.9 being an interpolation was raving loony. This text sticks out like a veritable sore thumb as an interpolation. I repeat, how else would Josephus or another writer have incorporated that text without having a codex available to edit a page. Remember there were no word processors to rapidly produce large quantities of text. And similar considerations apply to other small areas of the writings attributed to Josephus which must have been in codex form. These writings were the propaganda of Josephus and the Roman elite, acting together, with purpose. Do you have any evidence of a section of text being sewn into one of your 14000 bookrolls? That is the only other explanation."

2. “Larry, I found this extract in The History of It speaks of the development of the codex using parchment at the critical time when Josephus would have been writing.  The papyrus or parchment codex was a Roman innovation. The earliest certain reference to a parchment notebook appears in the Institutio Oratoria of Quintilian composed in the last years of the reign of the Emperor Domitian, the final decade of the first century CE. 2.C.5 About 85 CE, the poet Martial left the first surviving mention of literary works published in parchment codices, emphasizing their compactness, their handiness for the traveller, and providing the name of the shop where such novelties could be bought. From this early period only a single leaf fragment of a parchment codex has survived, with writing on both sides of the parchment–a fragment of an anonymous work entitled De bellis Macedonicis found at Oxyrthynchus (elephantnose fish), Egypt, and acquired by the British Museum in 1900.”

3."Larry, it appears that small codices could be purchased in a shop as a novelty at the time of Martial who refers to them as compact and handy for the traveller. The parchment would have been written on each side. The traveller would no longer have had to carry a bundle of bookrolls written single-sided on papyrus which wore out the text as they were rolled and unrolled. Apparently papyrus from Egypt was in short supply in Rome. Animal skins were easily available.  This suggests to me that the technology of codex production using parchment had filtered down from elite circles to have become common-place in shops. The lesson would not have been lost on the elite who would have recognised the advantages of the codex for spreading information. Of course the climate in Europe didn’t exactly encourage the survival of what must have been a large quantity of Roman manuscripts written in Latin, especially if they had been carried around, and not left in libraries. And Rome had more than its fair share of fires."

4. "Larry, looking at the LDAB database one might easily conclude that most ancient manuscripts were written in Greek, and that Romans must have been illiterate.  Never mind that Egypt where most of the LDAB database originates had a dry climate in sharp contrast to the European climate.

So you see Larry, the Roman elite were ahead of the game."  The codex was in use at the time Josephus was writing.  The fragment of the De bellis Macedonicis codex found in Egypt was written in Latin on both sides and is of the same period at which Josephus was writing. 

Larry's rant about me being ignorant (showing that he read my posts but did not have the grace to publish them)

"The Codex and Ignorance February 5, 2016
One persistent commenter in response to my earlier posting about Christian preference for the codex has confidently posited things that only illustrate his ignorance of the data about ancient manuscripts. I shall, therefore, neither post his comments nor name him. Instead, I take this opportunity to correct his ignorance. There’s nothing wrong with being ignorant of some specialized subject–we’re all in that situation on this or that one. But it’s passing strange for someone so obviously inadequately informed then to make confident (even arrogant) claims based on his ignorance. That is not acceptable. But now to the corrections."
We are all learning Larry. The ignorance seems to be coming from you.
"First, he incorrectly claimed that people must have used the codex much more regularly than the MSS data indicate, for otherwise how would they have made insertions of material into texts? Several errors here. For one thing, the way ancient texts were altered (by omissions, additions, other changes) wasn’t mechanically by physically adding or cutting out bits. Instead, it was in the copying process. Each time a given text was copied, there was the opportunity of making changes, either accidentally or deliberately. Texts on rolls could be changed just as easily as those on codices."
So Larry reckons that the way documents were changed or edited was by copying them, a process which would have been necessary in the case of a bookroll, but not in the case of a codex, as I show in the section on Turner below.
"The physical book-form had nothing to do with it. Furthermore, as to codices, the earliest form seems to have been “single gathering” construction, a number of sheets laid on top of one another and then folded and stitched together. You couldn’t remove individual leaves, as each leaf was one half of a folded sheet. And on all the sheets, except the most inside one, one leaf had material from the early part of the text, and the other leaf had material from another, later part of the text. So, if you removed one sheet, you made two deletions, not one. And if you added a sheet or removed one, you would have to take the whole codex apart and then re-sew it together again. As for multiple-gathering codices, there also removing or adding leaves wasn’t an easy task. You see? One really needs to study the physical items closely before making claims."
The physical book form had everything to do with it. A codex could be taken apart easily by a skilled craftsman or scribe, as I show in the section on Turner. Leaves could then be exchanged for edited new leaves, whether it was in single gatherings (four pages, double-sided) or multiple gatherings. This would have involved far less work than a rewrite.
"Second, he claimed that, because the data on the Leuven Database of Ancient Books was heavily based on papyri from Egypt (where conditions more readily made for the survival of papyri), we can’t apply these data (particularly the obvious preponderance of the bookroll for literary texts all through the first three centuries AD) generally. In Rome (he claimed), things could be different, and he proposed that there the codex was more heavily used. Well, again, ignorance is the mother of the claim. For we do have data about preferred bookforms in Rome and the West from the early centuries. For example, there is the library found in Herculaneum, which comprised a few hundred papyrus bookrolls of literary texts that were carbonized in the eruption of Mt. Visuvius in 79 AD. So, wrong again. All actual data confirm that the bookroll was the preferred bookform for literary texts in this early period, East or West, Greek or Latin. Martial’s famous Epigrams include mention of what he describes as an experiment of a local bookseller in preparing small, portable leather codices of his poetry for travellers. But it’s clear that this was a rather isolated experiment, and not indicative of any larger pattern. I’ve actually gone through the LDAB listing of all second-century non-Christian codices (there aren’t that many), and confirmed that they largely are workaday collections of recipes, astronomical tables, magical formulas, etc., with a few examples of copies of literary texts."
The manuscripts found at Herculaneum were the charred remains of papyrus bookrolls. They could have been any age. And Herculaneum was not Rome where the development of the codex was taking place. It certainly is not clear that Martial's use of the codex was an isolated experiment. What I am saying is that the codex was being used by the elite (the Flavians) for propaganda purposes. Larry's argument about the LDAB database is misleading. He interprets the data from one place in Egypt as being generally applicable, including in Rome from where no parchment codices have survived from the period. This is unscientific to say the least, particularly, as I have said, that the dry climate of Egypt lent itself to the preservation of manuscripts. The codex was a Roman invention, double-sided on Parchment. The earliest parchment fragment in Latin, probably from Rome, only survived because it was taken to Egypt.
"My illinformed commenter could do well to take the time to do such work before making further claims. So, bottom line: The bookroll was overwhelmingly the preferred book form for literary texts all through antiquity till sometime in the 4th century AD, and continued to be used heavily even after that. E.g., per the LDAB, about 98% of second-century nonChristian copies of literary texts are bookrolls. By contrast, Christians overwhelmingly preferred the codex, with particular fervency for those literary texts that they treated as scripture."

Now I will correct what Larry should have said, if he was being honest. The bookroll was the overwhelmingly preferred bookform till sometime in the 4th century, for manuscripts produced in Egypt.  Ignorance is bliss for Larry.

The Typology of the Early Codex by Eric G Turner

This was one of the books recommended by Larry.   Turner writes on page 2: "The story of the codex in the Latin west of the Empire will not be my concern."  Thus Turner forms general conclusions about codices from his studies of papyrus codices found largely in Egypt.  (See  page 32).  This was Turner's big assumption and a big mistake.                   

Turner almost contradicts himself in a Chapter on The Priority of Parchment or Papyrus. On page 40 he writes: "Points in favor of  the priority of parchment are no doubt the Latin term "membranae" applied to parchment notebooks used for business purposes, as C H Roberts has shown, and then perhaps extended; and the references in Martial to what seem to be early parchment codices (such as the "Livius in membranis").  A stronger argument than any of these may be the consideration that in Egyptian book technique (Turner is back to Egypt) the papyrus roll was so firmly entrenched that a major shock was needed to prompt the experiments that resulted in its eventually being supplanted by the codex. ....There must have been a powerful motive for using the codex form."  The desire to publicize Christianity is often advanced as this motive.  But what was the shock? 

Could a Codex be Changed Easily without Re-writing the Text Completely?
In codex terminology, a sheet is a folded piece of parchment that makes four sides or pages of a manuscript.  A gathering is a number of these sheets sewn together along the folds.  Thus a sheet would have the first two pages as right and left pages written on two sides.  But the next two pages would be out of sequence with the first two.  Then a number of these gatherings would be sewn together to form a codex.  On page 73 at the start of the chapter: The Codex and the Scribe, Turner poses the question: "Did the scribe make up his codex and fasten it together before he copied his text into it?"  Turner says: "We may proceed some way toward an answer by first considering what is implied in the procedure of copying a codex. Palaeographers have assumed in the past that the great vellum codices were written sheet by sheet; that is, in order to be written, the sheets were separated from the gathering into which they had been assembled (and through the whole body of which gatherings they were pricked).  Each sheet was laid by itself in its turn on the scribe's knee or writing desk.  Only when writing was completed were they reassembled and then stitched."  Turner then says: "That this was the procedure is mainly a matter of inference, but it is in itself eminently sensible."

Thus according to Turner, this was the normal way a scribe wrote a codex.  So what might the scribe do if he wanted to change or edit a manuscript?  Using his normal skills, it would be little trouble to remove the stitching and change the text of the sheets that he wished to edit or introduce changes to.  And this could be done without the necessity of re-writing the complete manuscript as he would have to do in the case of a papyrus bookroll, Larry.  This argument is important as it will be used to illustrate the "shock" referred to previously.  It involves what Gregory Sterling referred to: "The practice of rewriting texts and offering the retelling as an authorial composition."  In particular, it involves the re-writing or editing the sheets and pages of an existing Antiquities parchment codex by Josephus. Sterling almost implies Antiquities was treated so.  Thus he wrote: "These traditions (re-writing or editing) converge in the Jewish Antiquities of Josephus."     

The Children and Grandchildren of Herod were Educated at Rome 
This was particularly important for my argument.   It meant that the elite of Judea would have known Latin extremely well in both its spoken and written forms.  They would have communicated with their Roman equivalents using the Roman language, not Greek which the Romans regarded as inferior.  The young Jewish students would have shared their history and beliefs with their Roman counterparts.  They would have explained that there were two kinds of priestliness established by Moses, prophets and priests between whom there was great rivalry.  This had boiled over into outright war at the time of Antiochus who supported the priests, and Judas Maccabeus who supported the prophets.  

A few of the children said that they followed the priests.  These had been exiled from the temple since the time of Judas when animal sacrifices were banned.  The priests had continued their work as priests working in the towns and cities, relying on the people for their livelihood.  The majority of the children said that they preferred the prophets with their traditions of bravery, as their ancestors the Hasmoneans had done.  The prophets were hard working in many practical jobs like farming, construction and leather working.   They were basically peaceful but were fearless while under persecution by the priests, bearing all sorts of punishments stoically.  They would give much of their spare time to the study of the bible, and officiating in the temple at the altar of incense.  Now this chatter did not go unnoticed by the Roman tutors and parents of the elite class. 

Claudius was Emperor with a Wife Agrippina and an Adopted Son Nero (See;postID=8511344089794594531;onPublishedMenu=allposts;onClosedMenu=allposts;postNum=5;src=postname)
At this time Agrippa I had become king of Judea, having inherited the kingdom from his father Aristobulus.  (Josephus has two Aristobulus's existing at the same time).  Claudius and Agrippa were great friends.  Agrippa had been a pupil in Rome and had lived with Claudius.   

Ant.20.2 is really about the great friendship between Agrippa I, Nero, his mother the empress Agrippina, and the emperor Claudius.  When Nero was about sixteen, Agrippa invited Nero to stay in Judea.   Agrippa I gave him some lands that included Ein Gedi.  While Nero was at Ein Gedi, a prophet, James, employed by the king, came and taught him to worship God in the Spirit. There was opportunity for Nero to visit the king and his son in Masada.  Nero was familiar with Masada and its surrounding lands.  The Dead Sea is a fertile place being rich in ammonium salts. His father Claudius requested that Nero went home on different occasions.  James travelled with him.  James met and taught Agrippina to obey the Spirit and join the prophets. That the following text from Ant.20.2 was reconstructed from text that was about Nero, a simpleton could recognise, but apparently some professors do not.   

"About this time it was that [Helena] {Agrippina}, [queen of Adiabene] {the empress}, and her son [Izates] {Nero}, changed their course of life, and embraced the [Jewish customs] {Spirit of God}, and this on the occasion following: [Monobazus] {Claudius} [, the king of Adiabene] {Caesar}, who had also the name of [Bazeus] {Nero}, fell in love with his [sister] {brother’s daughter} [Helena] {Agrippina}, and took her to be his wife, and [begat] {adopted} her [with] child. ...And when his son was [born] {adopted}, he called him [Izates] {Nero}. He had indeed [Monobazus] {Britannicus}, his [elder brother] {son}, by [Helena] {Messalina} also, as he had [other sons] {a daughter Octavia} by [other wives] {her} besides. Yet did he openly place all his affections on this his [only begotten] {adopted} son [Izates] {Nero}, which was the origin of that envy which his other brethren, [by the same father,] bore to him; [while on this account they hated him more and more, and were all under great affliction that their father should prefer Izates before them]. Now although their father was very sensible of these their passions, yet did he forgive them, as not indulging those passions out of an ill disposition, but out of a desire each of them had to be beloved by their father. However, he sent [Izates] {Nero}, with many presents, to [Abennerig] {Agrippa}, the king of [Charax-Spasini] {Judea}, [and that out of the great dread he was in about him, lest he should come to some misfortune by the hatred his brethren bore him]; and he committed his son's preservation to him. Upon which [Abennerig] {Agrippa} gladly received the young man, and had a great affection for him, and... embraced him after the most affectionate manner, and bestowed on him the country called [Carra] {Ein Gedi}; it was a soil that bare amomum in great plenty: there are also [in it] the remains of that [ark] {pillar of salt}, wherein it is related that [Noah escaped the deluge] {Lot’s wife was buried} [, and where they are still shown to such as are desirous to see them.] Accordingly, [Izates] {Nero} abode in [that country] {Ein Gedi} [until his father's death].   ...3.Now, during the time [Izates] {Nero} abode at [Charax-Spasini] {Ein Gedi}, a [certain Jewish merchant] {prophet}, whose name was [Ananias] {James}, [got among the women] that belonged to the king, [and] taught [them] {him} to worship God [according to the Jewish religion] {in the Spirit}...He also, at the earnest entreaty of [Izates] {Nero}, accompanied him when he was sent for by his father to come to [Adiabene] {Rome}; ....and he said that he might worship God without {being circumcised] {sacrifice}; which worship of God was of a superior nature to [circumcision] {sacrifice}.  He added that God would forgive him, though he did not [perform the operation] {sacrifice}....5.But as to [Helena] {Agrippina}, the [king's] {emperor’s} [mother] {wife}, when she saw that [the affairs of Izates's kingdom were in peace, and that] her son was a happy man, and admired among all men, and even among foreigners, by the means of God's [providence] {Spirit} over him, she had a mind to go to the city of Jerusalem, in order to worship at that temple of God which was so very famous among all men, and to offer her thank-offerings there.  So she desired her [son] {HUSBAND} to give her leave to go thither; upon which he gave his consent to what she desired very willingly, and made great preparations for her dismission, and gave her a great deal of money, and she went down to the city Jerusalem[, her son conducting her on her journey a great way].  Now her coming was of very great advantage to the [people] {prophets} of Jerusalem; for whereas [a famine] {the priests} did oppress them at that time, and many [people] {prophets} died for want of what was necessary to procure food withal, [queen Helena] {Agrippina} sent some of her servants to Alexandria with money to buy a great quantity of corn, and others of them to Cyprus, to bring a cargo of dried figs. And as soon as they were come back, and had brought those provisions, which was done very quickly, she distributed food to those that were in want of it, and left a most excellent [memorial] {remembrance} behind her of this benefaction [, which she bestowed on our whole nation]. And when her [son Izates] {husband Claudius} was informed of this [famine] {persecution}, he sent great sums of money to the principal [men] {prophets} in Jerusalem."


Wednesday, November 04, 2015

The Herodian Dynasty was Continuous (Kokkinos is wrong about the Coins of the Prefects)

In the book, Judea and Rome in Coins 65 BCE - 135 CE, Kokkinos wrote (page 89) that the period of Judean history from 6 - 36 CE was a "thoroughly misty period."  In my view this is an academic understatement.  He says that the coins of the period refer only to individual emperors and their years of reign.  That much is true.  He should have put a full stop after "reign", not a comma.  He continues in academic mode: "and therefore attribution to different prefects depends entirely on their names and chronology as worked out from Josephus." Kokkinos makes no comment on this.  The obvious extreme weakness here is that the only source for the information about the prefects is the writings attributed to Josephus.  What Kokkinos has not considered is that the prefects were the creation of Roman editors.  Given the unreliability of the writings attributed to Josephus, this must stand as a glaring misjudgment.

A false history was created for the period 6 - 36.   It was really a partial period of  King Aristobulus's rule of Judea which the Roman historians rode roughshod over.  It was why in the writings attributed to Josephus they invented two Aristobulus's.  They falsified the death of the real Aristobulus at the hands of his father Herod.  This was to blacken Herod because he had served Rome well, assisting Augustus in the battle of Actium.   He had played a vitally important role in the battle and its aftermath.  This cost the death of his wife, father-in law and other relatives and friends.  Then the historians wrote another likely story about an Alexander, a nobody who happened to look like Alexander, but who apparently left the real Aristobulus alive on the isle of Crete.  This tells you what Roman historians were like. ( 

In his will, Herod bequeathed his kingdom, divided into a tetrarchy (four kingdoms), to his four sons.  Like Herod, they were loyal supporters of Rome.  Aristobulus inherited the kingdom of Judea and Idumea,   Archelaus was made king of Samaria, Antipas king of Galilee, and Philip king of the north east  part of Herod's territory, Iturea and Trachonitis.  When Archelaus was no longer king, Aristobulus took it over, with the permission of Rome.  

The four sons of Herod, Aristobulus, Archelaus, Antipas and Philip jointly issued coins in the tradition of their father with no image of themselves.  These coins are falsely regarded by scholars and numismatics alike as prefectural coins.  Later Aristobulus' son Agrippa I issued coins with his image, at least for some of his reign, presumably when he had recovered most of Herod's original territory.  

Kokkinos says (page 90) that Ocatavian was named Augustus on 16 January 27 BCE, and the new Era (the Augustan Era of the years of Octavian's rule) backdated to 1 January.   I dispute the date of 1 January, and say that the Augustan Era was backdated to 31 BC.   This was the year that Octavian effectively gained power at the battle of Actium.  So we need to measure the Octavian/Augustan Era from 31 BCE.  The same method of marking coins was used to identify the years of Tiberias's rule.  

Some coins, supposedly only associated with Archelaus, are identified with Year 33 of Octavian's rule, which gives an actual date of 2 CE.  There are also coins marked Year 36 (5 CE) and Year 37 (6 CE).  Archelaus was supposedly removed from being king of Judea in 6 CE, according to Josephus.   Citing Dio, Kokkinos  says Archelaus was "banished sometime in 6 CE". He probably just died from an illness early in his rule.  Kokkinos remarks about the dating: "this is uncomfortable".  Thus the arrival for the first prefect of Judea, Coponius, all the other prefects, the liquidation of Archelaus's estate and the preparation for the census were creations of one Josephus (and Vespasian's other historians).  Vespasian could afford to re-write history - he had just stolen a vast fortune from the temple.   

Josephus himself (whoever he was) gives the game away, as is obvious to a reader skilled in recognising created text.   He has nothing to say about the prefects except what he fabricates.  It is exactly the same with the high priests. He mentions only their appointment and subsequent replacement by the Roman authorities.  There are a few details fabricated from an entirely Jewish problem, namely disputes between priests and prophets. 

Friday, October 23, 2015

The Attack in 63 BCE on the Temple by Herod to keep Hyrcanus King (Pompey's War was a later Roman Editor's Myth )

The date of 63 BCE has been regarded by all scholars as being the end of Hasmonean rule in Judea and the beginning of direct Roman rule.  Defeat of the Jews by Pompey and Roman rule from this date is a myth created by later Roman editors.   It was Herod who defeated the forces of Antigonus and thus kept his future father-in-law as king.  Herod although not a Hasmonean was to maintain the Hasmonean traditions in a continuous line of kings that ran from Judas the Maccabean up to 66 CE.  

From the time of Judas, the priests were disenfranchised, thrown out of the temple, writing their Scrolls in secret.  The Scrolls were later captured by the kings and kept under lock and key.   The priests later ransacked Agrippa's archives and deposited the Scrolls in the Judean desert.

Tuesday, July 07, 2015

The ASOR Blog - The Roman Attack on Judea in the Summer of 66 CE


Nero came to Jerusalem with his army in 66 CE.  He headed straight for Jerusalem from Caesarea.  The priests had got wind of his coming and had fled to the fortresses they had previously captured.  They took with them the manuscripts they had rifled from Agrippa's archives.   Nero was let into Jerusalem and welcomed by the prophets who had been kept locked up in the temple by the priests.      

There are only three places where there is archaeological evidence of Roman attacks in Judea during the first century: Qumran, Masada and Machaerus.  The priests had captured these fortresses from their Idumean and Herodian guards.  I would be happy to receive evidence otherwise.  The Roman attacks on Qumran, Masada and Machaerus occurred almost at the same time, in the summer of 66 CE (see  The Roman strategy was to hit these fortresses hard and take them by storm.  

66 was to be the year of the Romans made war on the priests, first for killing James and second Agrippa.  There had been a revolt by the priests against the king.  Nero's war against the priests was short and over in a few days.  In the scheme of Roman wars, this was a small affair.  Nero left the temple intact for the prophets.  He also left Roman soldiery to guard Jerusalem.  The war was followed by a period traditionally regarded by scholars as a period of five years, the so-called five years of revolt.  It was in fact a period of peace.  

The fictitious story of Cestius's defeat is Flavian propaganda created from Nero's free entry into Jerusalem.  This was in Nero's twelfth year on the sixteenth of the month Arteisius (Jyar) (April to May 66) (see War 2.14.4 or 2.284).  Cestius's defeat alludes to Nero's entry:  "And now it was that a horrible fear seized upon the seditious, insomuch that many of them ran out of the city, as though it were to be taken immediately; but the people upon this took courage, and where the wicked part of the city gave ground, thither did they come, in order to set open the gates, and to admit Cestius as their benefactor, who, had he but continued the siege a little longer, had certainly taken the city; but it was, I suppose, owing to the aversion God had already at the city and the sanctuary, that he was hindered from putting an end to the war that very day"  (War 2.19.6 or 2.538,539).  Here Cestius should be Nero to whom the gates of Jerusalem were opened by the prophets.  There was no siege and there is no archaeological evidence for a siege.  The seditious were the priests who fled from Jerusalem.  Jerusalem was not "captured" but left to the prophets and those who wanted peace.  Nero was invited in.  
In the writings attributed to Josephus (the writer must have had access to Nero's war records), Qumran in Judea was changed to Jotapata in Galilee.  Josephus makes no mention of Qumran yet the archaeological evidence for a heavy Roman attack on Qumran is evident.  At the same time there is no evidence of Vespasian ever having been to Galilee.  The first account in Josephus of the attack on Qumran under Placidus (Nero) is falsified as a failed attack on Jotapata  (see War 3.6.1 or 3.110-114) but the time given is correct.  The second attack on Jotapata, supposedly under Vespasian, is elaborate, and of course successful (see War 3.7.3 to 3.8.8 or 3.141-392).  A number of details of this exaggerated battle have been taken from Nero's war record of the actual attack on Qumran.  The geographical similarities of Jotapata and Qumran cannot be mistaken.  The actual date Qumran was stormed by Placidus (Nero) was given away by the Roman historians in War 3.7.29 or 3.282.   This date was the Summer of 66 "on  the twentieth day of the month Desius (Sivan) (May to Jun 66) "  The Roman historians used the actual attack on Qumran to produce the two false attacks on Jotapata.  The second attack was at the incorrect time.

Similarly in the text of Josephus, Masada that lay near Qumran was changed to "Japha that lay near to Jotapata".  I believe Masada was stormed by Trajan "on the twenty-fifth day of the month Desius (Sivan) (May to Jun 66)" (see War 3.7.31 or 3.306).

And Machaerus (east of the Dead Sea) was changed to Gamala (in a similar geographical position but east of the Sea of Galilee).  I believe Machaerus was stormed (in "summer-time") by Cerealis the commander of the fifth legion "on the twenty-seventh day of the month Desius (Sivan) (May to Jun 66)" (War 3.7.32 or 3.315).  This attack is said to be against Samaritans on Mount Gerizim.  The attack on Gamala is in War 4.1.1-10 or 4.1-82.  Mount Gerizim in Samaria becomes Mount Tabor in Galilee.  Similar to the attack on Qumran, the Roman historians used the one account of a real attack on Machaerus to produce two false attacks, one on Mount Gerizim and one on Mount Tabor.  

On page 394 of The Herodian Dynasty, Kokkinos tries to say that the revolt, (meaning war) began in 65.  He writes, depending on Josephus: "The seven months siege of Gamala can only be true if the revolt began in 65."  I say there was no attack on Gamala, Vespasian never went to Galilee, and the start date for the war was 66, as stated by Meshorer and Roth.  The Roman side was led by Nero who went with his army from Rome in 66.  Kokkinos appears anxious to find for the date 65 as the first year of the war.  

Thus after entering Jerusalem, Nero's armies attacked Qumran, Masada and Machaerus in the space of seven days.  Each of these attacks involved a different commander.  The accounts are kept deliberately short and interspersed with other larger accounts (see War 3.7.29,31 and 32).  This was to hide the significance of the shorter accounts and to exaggerate considerably the larger accounts.     

The eventual destruction of the temple in Jerusalem was not a part of the war which was against the priests.  The temple was destroyed four or five years later on the orders of Vespasian who was aspiring to the top job in the Roman Empire and needed the finances.  It was the prophets who were attacked on this occasion.  Vespasian took eight hundred or so prophets to Rome for his triumph.     

Golb and DeVaux were wrong about the date of the attack on Qumran

The Roman Tenth Legion came "by way of Jericho" (see Page 13, Line 12 of Golb's book Who Wrote the Dead Sea Scrolls, and War 5.2.3 or 5.69).   This pass "that led into the city", Jerusalem was supposedly guarded by Roman forces.  Vespasian is said to have captured the pass earlier from a vague "certain party of armed men" who had "lain" there.  It smacks of Roman propaganda. Based on Nero's war records (destroyed by Vespasians's historians), the Roman army must have come by way of Caesarea on their way to Jerusalem.  The Roman armies under Nero disembarked at Caesarea the port built by Herod.  From his intelligence information, Nero knew that the priests had captured Qumran, Masada and Machaerus from their Herodian guards.  He probably also knew that the priests had fled from Jerusalem. 

Golb says on page 12 of his book Who wrote the Dead Sea Scrolls, that de Vaux was of the view that the capture of Qumran was in the summer of CE 68, before Jerusalem was captured. Golb says that the reasons de Vaux gave for the date of the attack were the dates on some Roman and Jewish coins found at Qumran. The Roman coins were minted in Caesarea and had a date of CE 67-68. He also says the earliest Jewish coins found at Qumran were dated Year III. Year III is usually accepted as the third year of the Jewish revolt. I have said elsewhere that Year III was the third year of a four or five year period of peace (see .  After this date, Roman soldiers and Jews visited the Qumran site. Thus these coins were dropped by people who were friends and allies. De Vaux was wrong. Golb accepts Josephus's version, and has the attack on Qumran (and the attack on Masada and Machaerus) following the capture of Jerusalem in CE 70.   Jerusalem was never captured as such.   And Qumran was captured in the summer of 66 CE.  De Vaux's interpretation was two years late. But, his view was at least before CE 70 and not after.  

On page 13, Golb says that if Romans had "stormed" the Qumran site earlier than 68 CE, they would have moved promptly southward to take Herodium.  This was despite Herodium being a Herodian stronghold.  Golb then makes no mention of Masada and Machaerus being captured, but follows the writings attributed to Josephus.  I believe Nero did move southward in 66 CE, but directly from Jerusalem to take first Qumran, then Masada and then Machaerus, all by storm.  Nero knew that these fortresses were defended by priests who were no match for the Roman army.  Vespasian's propaganda painted a completely different picture.  Masada became the key base for the Roman army.   Thus contrary to Golb, I say the Roman troops did move south, but directly from Jerusalem.   "Storming" was the order of the day, not siege.

The real war was a rebellion by the priests who numbered about 30000 in total.  There was no mass uprising of the whole Jewish population.  The priests were defeated by Nero who mounted a direct campaign.  There were no great battles of Vespasian and Titus as portrayed in the propaganda attributed to Josephus.  Vespasian never fought his way through Galilee and Samaria.  There is no archaeological evidence of Vespasian having been there, unlike the Roman camps at Masada.  War Books 3 and 4 are fabricated to fill in some of the time of the  four or five years of peace.  Here is an example (War 3.3.2 or 3.41 to 43) of text about En-Gedi taken from another text (probably Antiquities)  and adapted for Galilee:  [These] {This} [two Galilees] {city}, of so great [largeness] {fruitfullness}, and encompassed with so many [nations of foreigners] {mountains}, [have] {has} been always able to make a strong [resistance] {appeal} on all occasions [of] {to} [war] {peace}; for the [Galileans] {prophets} are inured to [war] {peace} from their infancy, and have been always very [numerous] {industrious}; nor hath the [country] {city} been ever destitute of men of [courage] {agriculture}, or wanted a numerous set of them; for their soil is universally rich and fruitful and full of the plantations of trees of all sorts, insomuch that it invites the most [slothful] {industrious} to take pains in its cultivation, by its fruitfulness; accordingly, it is all cultivated by its inhabitants, and no part of it lies idle. 

On page 13, I consider that Golb makes another false deduction.  He says that Josephus explains that at the beginning of the siege of the capital, the Roman Tenth Legion arrived at the arrived at the Mount of Olives "having come by way of Jericho where a party of soldiers had been posted to guard the pass formerly taken by Vespasian."  In accepting that Josephus is telling the truth, Golb says that this strongly implies there were no Roman troops stationed south of this pass.  I believe that the statement "where a party of of soldiers had been posted to guard the pass formerly taken by Vespasian" has all the hallmarks of retrospective propaganda.  Golb claims that this move allowed the Romans to surround Jerusalem entirely, not just on three sides.  I show, in fact, that before capturing Qumran, Masada and Machaerus, Nero's forces were let into Jerusalem by the prophets in 66 (see  There was no siege of Jerusalem - the archaeologists and historians argue there was a siege wall, but there is no archaeological evidence for such a wall.  Yet the archaeologists say that the wall around Masada was a siege wall, still visible, and built by the Roman military.  I argue that it was built by Herod for defence.

Josephus reports two battles for Jotapata 

Of course, retrospectively, Josephus has it that Nero, full of "consternation and terror" at the prospect of war, "found no one but Vespasian equal to the task, and able to to undergo the great burden of so mighty a war" (see War 3.1.1,2 or 3.1-5).  Never mind that Nero led a large army out of Rome in 66 CE, as Suetonius mockingly stated in his Vespasian.  The Roman propaganda is obvious.  Nero actually invited Vespasian to be a general in his army.  His experience in Britain would be invaluable.  Nero was to lead the army.

In War, shortly after Vespasian's apparent appointment as leader of the army, and after some preliminary text about Galilee, Samaria and Judea, followed by a description of the Roman army and a few skirmishes, there is the first battle supposedly against the city of Jotapata in Galilee (see War 3.6.1 or 3.110 - 114)  This was led by Placidus "who had supposedly overrun Galiliee" apparently before Vespasian's arrival, but had only killed "the weaker part of the 'Galileans', and such as who were of fearful souls".  Josephus reports that the people of Jotapata were expecting Placidus, and "easily put the Romans to flight".   "Placidus, finding himself unable to assault the city, ran away", would you believe.  This was Vespasian mocking Nero.  This probably alluded to the time when Vespasian left the battle to attend to his Emperor who had been injured by an arrow in his foot.  

Bear in mind de Vaux's view that Qumran was captured before Jerusalem in the summer of 68. In a seemingly insignificant account, Placidus's fight for Jotapata in Galilee was really Nero's battle for Qumran in 66.  That is why this first battle is played down . Placidus lost the battle and fled.  Vespasian could then claim the victory when he comes on the scene for the second fictitious attack on Jotapata.  

Nero's plan was to take Qumran by surprise or storm.  The men (priests) having previously captured the fortress of Qumran from a number of Idumean guards, were prepared for fighting and expecting the Romans.   Significantly, the priests had their wives and children with them, as supported by the evidence of the bones from the adjacent cemetery.  It was the Jews who were "easily put to flight" (opposite to the the extant text) by the Roman army who killed seven of them and wounded many who probably also died from their wounds.  Josephus has reversed the casualty figures.  Thus, three of the Roman side were killed and a few wounded.  This battle would have been over in less than a day.    
"And thus did Vespasian march with his army, and came to the bounds of Galilee, where he pitched his camp and restrained his soldiers, who were eager for war".  You can rest assured that you are in for some real propaganda for the protracted second battle (see War 3.7.3-29 or 3.127-338).  The second battle for Jotapata is said to have occurred on the twentieth day of the month Decius (Sivan) or May to June - "This fight happened on the twentieth day of the month Decius (Sivan) (see War 3.7.36 or 3.338).  It is described as a fight over one day.  Yet the long account of Vespasian's battle includes a siege.  Clearly this slip-up of a "fight over one day" was probably extracted from Nero's war records. It must refer to the first attack which was by storm under Nero. 

Galilee with its lake, was easy for the Roman historians to duplicate and exaggerate what really happened around the Dead Sea.  Vespasian never went to Galilee.  The two years between 66 and 68 were filled with the activities of one Josephus supposedly building defenses in Galilee.  It was at Jotapata that Josephus is supposed to have surrendered, in a most unlikely fashion Vespasian's battle for Jotapata, and Josephus, himself are fictional.  They were the creations of Roman historians for Vespasian's phoney war.  

Josephus reports a battle for Japha

Slipped-in with account of the second battle for Jotapata is another short seemingly insignificant account of the battle for Japha in Galilee (see War 3.7.31 or 3.289-306).  So could this be similar to the first battle for Jotapata (Qumran) with Japha in reality somewhere near the Dead Sea?  I suggest this short account about Japha was in fact the taking of Masada by storm.  The forces were again under Nero.  Japha is said to have fallen on the twenty-fifth of the month Desius (Sivan), approximately four or five days after the first battle for Qumran (see War 3.7.31 or 3.306).

Thus I have the dates of the battles for Qumran, Masada and Machaerus as:

Qumran - twentieth day of the month Decius (Sivan) (see War 3.7.36 or 3.338).

Masada - twenty-fifth of the month Desius (Sivan) (see War 3.7.31 or 3.306).

Machaerus - twenty-seventh day of the month Desius (Sivan) (May to Jun 66) (See War 3.7.32 or 3.315).

Golb is right and de Vaux wrong about the purpose of the Qumran site - Qumran always was a fortress.