Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Nero and His Mother Follow the Prophets (Antiquities 20)

The Two Nero's of Ant.20

Ant.20 is the story of two Nero's.  The first account in Ant.20.2, has been obfuscated by the the second century Church Fathers of Caesarea.  It portrays a brutal Nero.  Before it was obfuscated, the text of Ant.20.2 was original, and portrayed a Nero with a mild disposition who came to follow the Jewish prophets after his stay with Agrippa.  The prophets used to gather early in the morning when the sun shone on the entrance of the temple and reflected of their white linen garments which they temporarily wore before going off to work in the fields or in various crafts.     







How was Agrippa 1 Regarded, and His Apparent Early Death?  (Ant.19.343-342, Loeb)

Agrippa is supposed to have staged shows in a theatre in honour of Caesar (Nero) in Caesarea, where there was supposed to be a festival to make vows for his safety. (343)  The only festival where Jews normally made vows was in the temple at the Feast of Tabernacles (booths) when the Holy Spirit descends.  In this context, what was Agrippa going to vow to God? On the second day of these shows Agrippa is said to have put on a garment made of silver, and come into the theatre early in the morning when the sun shone on the silver, much to the amazement of onlookers. (344) This was like the sun shining on prophet's (Essenes) white garments as they went into the eastern doorway of the temple early in the morning before they started work.  Agrippa's flatterers were supposed to have cried out from various places that he was a god. (345) In a Jewish  context, regarding him as a god, would be most unlikely. If the true context, as I believe, was the temple, those cries would have been extemporary prayers, one after the other. Again in a Jewish context, he would not have been "regarded as superior to mortal nature", so how would he have been regarded?  As a prophet?  For punishment, Agrippa is supposed to have seen an owl sitting on a rope over his head, recalling a good vision (supposedly) from the past (that also seems unlikely).  This was now said to be a sign of his impending death which was brought on by a severe pain in his belly. (346). After five days Agrippa is said to have died a slow agonising death. (350) Then soldiers (residents of Caesarea) are supposed to have taken statues of Agrippa's daughters from his house into the brothel houses and abused them. (357).  All this, briefly, is the fanciful imagination of the early Church Fathers of Caesarea, writing a story about a vision that Agrippa is supposed to have had, foretelling his slow agonising death.  Then they have soldiers from Caesarea somehow taking vengeance on the statues of Agrippa's daughters.  When Vespasian had supposedly subdued the country he is said to have ordered the removal of the soldiers from Caesarea (364).  But in reality, Agrippa was still alive. So why did the Church Fathers want an early fictitious death for Agrippa? The editor falls over himself to tell us of Agrippa I’s death which he refers to on numerous occasions in Ant.19, and in Ant.20.  The apparent death of Agrippa I (mentioned three times in Ant.20.1,9,15) was created before Ant.20.17-53 to disentangle Agrippa from any possible link with Nero, as we will see.   I think that most of this fanciful text has come out of the imagination of the Church Fathers of Caesarea.   They are the only capable people I can think of. They were in Caesarea, had the brains, the tools (the codex), the motive (they were priests), and they were out to remove the prophets from history.  They were also out to please the Romans. 


Agrippa 1 is Regarded as a Prophet (Ant.19.343-345)
The following (343-345) is a portion of the text that has not been totally fabricated. 346-353 is fabrication. Agrippa 1 continued to rule until he met his death at the hands of rebel priests in 64 CE. [ ] Read out. { } read in: (343) Now when Agrippa had reigned three years over all Judea, he came to the [city Caesarea, which was formerly called Strato'sTower] {temple}; and there he [exhibited] {offered} [shows] {prayers} in [honour of Caesar] {the Spirit} upon [his being informed that there was a certain] {the} festival {of Tabernacles} celebrated to make vows [for his safety] {to God}.  At which festival a great multitude was gotten together of the [principal persons] {prophets} [, and such as were of dignity through his province]. (344) On the second day of which [shows] {festival} he put on a garment made wholly of [silver] {white linen} [, and of a contexture truly wonderful,] and came into the [theatre] {temple} early in the morning; at which time the [silver] {whiteness} of his garment being illuminated by the fresh reflection of the sun's rays upon it, shone out after a surprising manner [, and was so resplendent] as to spread a [horror] {joy} over [those] {the prophets} that looked intently upon him; (345) and presently [his flatterers] {the prophets} [cried out] {prayed}, one from one place, and another from another, [though not for his good,] that he was a {prophet of} God; and they added, "Be thou merciful to us; for although we have hitherto reverenced thee only as a [man] {king}, yet shall we henceforth own thee as [superior to mortal nature] {a prophet}. 

An Interlude of Fiction (Ant. 19.354-365, and 20.1-15)





Ant.20.1 contains elements of earlier history such as disputes over: the high priests vestments, substituted for disputes over the Scrolls; Fadus was never the procurator of Judea; Herod of Chalcis was never responsible for the temple and never appointed any high priests (none were appointed since Judas Maccabeus). The letter from Claudius was a fabrication. Nero had developed a close friendship with Agrippa I and his son Agrippa II (who never did receive the kingdom).  Agrippa II was a few years senior to Nero and was probably idolised by his sixteen year old counterpart.

1.[Upon the death of king Agrippa, which we have related in the foregoing book, Claudius Caesar sent Cassius Longinus as successor to Marcus, out of regard to the memory of king Agrippa, who had often desired of him by letters, WHILE HE WAS ALIVE, that he would not suffer Marcus to be any longer president of Syria. But Fadus, as soon as he was come procurator into Judea, found quarrelsome doings between the Jews that dwelt in Perea, and the people of Philadelphia, about their borders, at a village called Mia, that was filled with men of a warlike temper; for the Jews of Perea had taken up arms without the consent of their principal men, and had destroyed many of the Philadelphians. When Fadus was informed of this procedure, it provoked him very much that they had not left the determination of the matter to him, if they thought that the Philadelphians had done them any wrong, but had rashly taken up arms against them. So he seized upon three of their principal men, who were also the causes of this sedition, and ordered them to be bound, and afterwards had one of them slain, whose name was Hannibal; and he banished the other two, Areram and Eleazar. Tholomy also, the arch robber, was, after some time, brought to him bound, and slain, but not till he had done a world of mischief to Idumea and the Arabians.  And indeed, from that time, Judea was cleared of robberies by the care and providence of Fadus.  He also at this time sent for the high priests and the principal citizens of Jerusalem, and this at the command of the emperor, and admonished them that they should lay up the long garment and the sacred vestment, which it is customary for nobody but the high priest to wear, in the tower of Antonia, that it might be under the power of the Romans, as it had been formerly.  Now the Jews durst not contradict what he had said, but desired Fadus, however, and Longinus, which last was come to Jerusalem, and had brought a great army with him, out of a fear that the rigid injunctions of Fadus should force the Jews to rebel, that they might, in the first place, have leave to send ambassadors to Caesar, to petition him that they may have the holy vestments under their own power; and that, in the next place, they would tarry till they knew what answer Claudius would give to that their request.  So they replied, that they would give them leave to send their ambassadors, provided they would give them their sons as pledges for their peaceable behaviour.  And when they had agreed so to do, and had given them the pledges they desired, the ambassadors were sent accordingly. But when, upon their coming to Rome, Agrippa, junior, THE SON OF THE DECEASED, understood the reason why they came, (for he dwelt with Claudius Caesar, as we said before,) he  besought Caesar to grant the Jews their request about the holy vestments, and to send a message to Fadus accordingly. 2.Hereupon Claudius called for the ambassadors; and told them that he [granted] {refused} their request; and bade them to return. their thanks to Agrippa for this favour, which had been bestowed on them upon his entreaty.  And besides these answers of his, he sent the following letter by them: "Claudius Caesar Germanicus, tribune of the people the fifth time, and designed consul the fourth time, and imperator the tenth time, the father of his country, to the magistrates, senate, and people, and the whole nation of the Jews, sendeth greeting.  Upon the presentation of your ambassadors to me by Agrippa, my friend, whom I have brought up, and have now with me, and who is a person of very great piety, who are come to give me thanks for the care I have taken of your nation, and to entreat me, in an earnest and obliging manner, that they may have the holy vestments, with the crown belonging to them, under their power, - I grant their request, as that excellent person Vitellius, who is very dear to me, had done before me.  And I have complied with your desire, in the first place, out of regard to that piety which I profess, and because I would have every one worship God according to the laws of their own country; and this I do also because I shall hereby highly gratify king Herod, and Agrippa, junior, whose sacred regards to me, and earnest good-will to you, I am well acquainted with, and with whom I have the greatest friendship, and whom I highly esteem, and look on as persons of the best character.Now I have written about these affairs to Cuspius Fadus, my procurator. The names of those that brought me your letter are Cornelius, the son of Cero, Trypho, the son of Theudio, Dorotheus, the son of Nathaniel, and John, the son of Jotre. This letter is dated before the fourth of the calends of July, when Ruffis and Pompeius Sylvanus are consuls." 
3.Herod also, the brother of the DECEASED AGRIPPA, who was then possessed of the royal authority over Chalcis petitioned Claudius Caesar for the authority over the temple, and the money of the sacred treasure, and the choice of the high priests, and obtained all that he petitioned for. So that after that time this authority continued among all his descendants till the end of the war. Accordingly, Herod removed the last high priest, called Cimtheras, and bestowed that dignity on his successor Joseph, the son of Cantos.]

Ant.20.2.1 - Nero's Early Life (A Reality)

It is strange that at the same time in the history of Queen Helena and Izates  recorded in the writings attributed to Josephus, the Empress Agrippina and her son Nero were also around.  So have Agrippina and Nero been edited out of Ant.20?  With a little reverse editing of the extant text we finish up with a completely different picture, one in which we can recognise the history of Claudius at a time when king Agrippa was very much alive.  One might expect that Ant.20.2 would contain some reference to Agrippa I, especially as this was meant to be an account of Jewish affairs. The story 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 him to stay in Judea.   Agrippa I gave him some lands that included Ein Gedi. While he was at Ein Gedi, a prophet, probably James, came and taught him to worship God in the Spirit and that animal sacrifice was unnecessary.  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.  It was also the place where Lot's wife was supposed to have been turned into a pillar of salt. 

By contrast to the generally accepted view, that Agrippina was grasping on behalf of her son Nero, and her supposed hatred for Claudius’s other children by Messalina, she appears just the opposite in Ant.20.2. She is very protective of her son Nero, and of Claudius’s other children, Britannicus and Octavia.

Claudius gave his name Nero to his adopted son.  


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. 

[But as he was in bed with her one night, he laid his hand upon his wife's belly, and fell asleep, and seemed to hear a voice, which bid him take his hand off his wife's belly, and not hurt the infant that was therein, which, by God's providence, would be safely born, and have a happy end. This voice put him into disorder; so he awaked immediately, and told the story to his wife;]

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 Ocatvia} 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 

[married him to his own daughter, whose name was Samacha: he also bestowed a country upon him, from which he received large revenues.  But when Monobazus was grown old, and saw that he had but a little time to live, he had a mind to come to the sight of his son before he died. So he sent 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. 

[But the very day that Monobazus died, queen Helena sent for all the grandees, and governors of the kingdom, and for those that had the armies committed to their command; and when they were come, she made the following speech to them: "I believe you are not unacquainted that my husband was desirous Izates should succeed him in the government, and thought him worthy so to do. However, I wait your determination; for happy is he who receives a kingdom, not from a single person only, but from the willing suffrages of a great many." This she said, in order to try those that were invited, and to discover their sentiments. Upon the hearing of which, they first of all paid their homage to the queen, as their custom was, and then they said that they confirmed the king's determination, and would submit to it; and they rejoiced that Izates's father had preferred him before the rest of his brethren, as being agreeable to all their wishes.  But that they were desirous first of all to slay his brethren and kinsmen, that so the government might come securely to Izates; because if they were once destroyed, all that fear would be over which might arise from their hatred and envy to him.  Helena replied to this, that she returned them her thanks for their kindness to herself and to Izates; but desired that they would however defer the execution of this slaughter of Izates's brethren he should be there himself , and give his approbation to it. So since these men had not prevailed with her, when they advised her to slay them, they exhorted her at least to keep them in bonds until he should come, and that for their own security; they also gave her counsel to set up someone whom she could put the greatest trust in, as a governor of the kingdom in the meantime.  So queen Helena complied with this counsel of theirs, and set up Monobazus, the eldest son, to be king, and put the diadem upon his head, and gave him his father's ring, with its signet; as also the ornament which they call Sampser, and exhorted him to administer the affairs of the kingdom till his brother should come; who came suddenly upon hearing that his father was dead, and succeeded his brother Monobazus, who resigned up the government to him.] 

Ant.20.2.3,4 - The Conversion of Nero and His Mother to the Spirit of God (In the Time Before the Death of Claudius) (Again a Reality)

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, moreover, by their means, became known to Izates and persuaded him, in like manner, to embrace that religion;]

He [also], at the earnest entreaty of [Izates] {Nero}, accompanied him when he was sent for by [his father] {Claudius} to come to [Adiabene] {Rome};

[it also happened that Helena, about the same time, was instructed by a certain other Jew and went over to them.  But when Izates had taken the kingdom, and was come to Adiabene, and there saw his brethren and other kinsmen in bonds, he was displeased at it; and as he thought it an instance of impiety either to slay or imprison them, but still thought it a hazardous thing for to let them have their liberty, with the remembrance of the injuries that had been offered them, he sent some of them and their children for hostages to Rome, to Claudius Caesar, and sent the others to Artabanus, the king of Parthia, with the like intentions.  4.And when he perceived that his mother was highly pleased with the Jewish customs, he made haste to change, and to embrace them entirely; and as he supposed that he could not be thoroughly a Jew unless he were circumcised, he was ready to have it done. But when his mother understood what he was about, she endeavoured to hinder him from doing it, and said to him that this thing would bring him into danger; and that, as he was a king, he would thereby bring himself into great odium among his subjects, when they should understand that he was so fond of rites that were to them strange and foreign; and that they would never bear to be ruled over by a Jew.  This it was that she said to him, and for the present persuaded him to forbear. And when he had related what she had said to [Ananias] {James}, he confirmed what his mother had said; and when he had also threatened to leave him, unless he complied with him, he went away from him, and said that he was afraid lest such an action being once become public to all, he should himself be in danger of punishment for having been the occasion of it, and having been the king's instructor in actions that were of ill reputation;

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},

[while it was omitted out of necessity, and for fear of his subjects.  So the king at that time complied with these persuasions of Ananias. But afterwards, as he had not quite left off his desire of doing this thing, a certain other Jew  that came out of Galilee, whose name was Eleazar, and who was esteemed very skilful in the learning of his country, persuaded him to do the thing; for as he entered into his palace to salute him, and found him reading the law of Moses, he said to him, "Thou dost not consider, O king! that thou unjustly breakest the principal of those laws, and art injurious to God himself, by omitting to be circumcised; for thou oughtest not only to read them, but chiefly to practice what they enjoin thee.  How long wilt thou continue uncircumcised?  But if thou hast not yet read the law about circumcision, and dost not know how great impiety thou art guilty of by neglecting it, read it now."  When the king had heard what he said, he delayed the thing no longer, but retired to another room, and sent for a surgeon, and did what he was commanded to do.  He then sent for his mother, and Ananias his tutor, and informed them that he had done the thing; upon which they were presently struck with astonishment and fear, and that to a great degree, lest the thing should be openly discovered and censured, and the king should hazard the loss of his kingdom, while his subjects would not bear to be governed by a man who was so zealous in another religion; and lest they should themselves run some hazard, because they would be supposed the occasion of his so doing.  But it was God himself who hindered what they feared from taking effect; for he preserved both Izates himself and his sons when they fell into many dangers, and procured their deliverance when it seemed to be impossible, and demonstrated thereby that the fruit of piety does not perish as to those that have regard to him, and fix their faith upon him only. But these events we shall relate hereafter.]

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.


[However, what favours this queen and king conferred upon our city Jerusalem shall be further related hereafter.]  

We know what favours the Empress and her husband Claudius bestowed upon Jerusalem so there was no need to relate them.  (See Ant.20.2.5 above)

Ant.20.8 What the Christian Priests Wanted You To Believe About Nero, Agrippina and Britannicus


1. NOW Claudius Caesar died when he had reigned thirteen years, eight months, and twenty days; and a report went about that he was poisoned by his wife Agrippina. Her father was Germanicus, the brother of Caesar. Her husband was Domitius Aenobarbus, one of the most illustrious persons that was in the city of Rome; after whose death, and her long continuance in widowhood, Claudius took her to wife. She brought along with her a son, Domitius, of the same name with his father. He had before this slain his wife Messalina, out of jealousy, by whom he had his children Britannicus and Octavia; their eldest sister was Antonia, whom he had by Pelina his first wife. He also married Octavia to Nero; for that was the name that Caesar gave him afterward, upon his adopting him for his son.

2.But now Agrippina was afraid, lest, when Britannicus should come to man's estate, he should succeed his father in the government, and desired to seize upon the principality beforehand for her own son Nero; upon which the report went that she thence compassed the death of Claudius. Accordingly, she sent Burrhus, the general of the army, immediately, and with him the tribunes, and such also of the freed-men as were of the greatest authority, to bring Nero away into the camp, and to salute him emperor. And when Nero had thus obtained the government, he got Britannicus to be so poisoned, that the multitude should not perceive it; although he publicly put his own mother to death not long afterward, making her this requital, not only for being born of her, but for bringing it so about by her contrivances that he obtained the Roman empire. He also slew Octavia his own wife, and many other illustrious persons, under this pretense, that they plotted against him.