Sunday, June 22, 2014

Jesus and Brian (Conference at King's College, 20-22 June 2014)

Jesus and Brian (Conference at King's College, 20-22 June 2014) 

I recall the Life of Brian as being only fairly humorous so I went to London for the Saturday.  The conference looked at the history of Jesus through the lens of Brian.  I  was more interested to hear three professors two of whom I had previously exchanged e-mail communications with.  I had read some of their books.  These were Helen Bond, Guy Stiebal and Steve Mason. I would have also liked to have heard Martin Goodman who spoke on the Friday.  Bond, Mason and Goodman dealt with history during the time Jesus is supposed to have existed.  Stiebal, an Israeli archaeologist, spoke about the Roman army at the time.  It seems that they have learned their history from The Life of Brian, for they all used him as a model to follow, like zombies.  This was along a well trodden path with a few slight variations from Brian's version between speakers, may be.  Their approach to the history of the time is a naive one.  So what have the Pythons done for us?  They have shown that much of the understood history is a farce.  

Thus in Brian's history that time in Judea was a cruel one for most of the Jews under Roman procurators.  The Jews hated the Romans and vice versa.  Bond said that crucifixions were common place, but that unlike Brian's history, there was no involvement of Jews in his death.   But she had no word to say which Jews were involved.   Mason made a point, that the Romans must have had help from the Jewish elite.  Significantly, he also didn't say who they were.   The four speaker's naive messages can be read in children's books, or The Life of Brian, or Josephus published under the lens of Vespasian or may be Eusebius.  They are fundamentally a regurgitation of the writings attributed to Josephus and the New Testament.  Both of these are more akin to the life of Brian. 

Eisenman thinks the Romans were having fun when producing Josephus.  An example is Josephus's casting of lots to decide who should dispatch who in a suicide pact of 30 or so rebels cornered by the Romans, and then changing his mind because he coincidentally drew the last lot and chose to survive.  Another example is the ridiculous and fictitious story of the miserable death of Agrippa I while making himself out to be a god.  These stories reveal what the Romans under Vespasian were capable of in producing their version of history.  A crucifixion story would be great to scare the Jews.  Certainly, the scholars warn about Josephus, yet ignore their own warnings.    It would be more appropriate to substitute Vespasian or Eusebius for Josephus when citing.   

My Question to Mason 

(I could have put the same question to Bond, Stiebal and Goodman.)  

How do you reconcile the above view with the following two statements?:  

"However is it possible that a royal court of such magnitude, a ruling centre for over half a century, with its established political, economic and military mechanisms, lost its well placed manpower in a spectacular overnight disintegration?"  (Kokkinos, The Herodian Dynasty, page 19).   I conclude from this that Kokkinos doesn't believe it was possible.     

In a puzzled mood, Goodman states: "Nor was violence continuous: a long lived Jerusalemite could have passed the whole period from 6 to 66 CE without ever witnessing the horrors of war."  (Goodman, Rome and Jerusalem, page 397).   Presumably, following Brian and Vespasian, Goodman believes that the Romans managed to keep the lid on Jewish restlessness, helped of course by non-descript Jewish elite.  



Antipator and his mother Doris are complete fiction.  The editor, out of a hat, "brought to court another of his (Herod's) sons that was born when he was a private man."  ...."So he INTRODUCED Antipater as their (supposedly Alexander's and Aristobulus's) antagonist".  And of course "Antipater was a shrewd man" (See Ant. 16.3.3).  I can't remember where I said it, but I have previously stated that Doris was also an invention.  She is only ever mentioned twice.  And I have maintained that Aristobulus, Alexander's brother, survived to be king.  

Alexander's murder by Pheroras brought Augustus's vengeance upon him. (See Chap.7)  This puts Augustus's supposed quotation (See page 99 of Geza Vermes's book, The True Herod) in a new light: "It is better to be Herod's pig than his son".   Vermes wrote: "after witnessing his cruelty towards Mariamne's children, Caesar Augustus saw through him".   But this was not Augustus's reflection on Herod's supposed vicious character, but his reflection of what enemies of Herod, equally Jewish, thought of his son.  Just as Herod was hated by Pheroras and followers, so they hated his son and heir and took advantage of him in Rome.  




1.WHEN [Antipater] {Pheroras} had thus [taken off his brethren] {murdered Alexander}, and had brought [his father] {himself} into the highest degree of impiety, till he was haunted with furies for what he had done, his hopes did not succeed to his mind, as to the rest of his life; for although he was delivered from the fear of {Alexander} being his rival[s] as to the government, yet did he find it a very hard thing, and almost impracticable, to come at the kingdom, because the hatred of the nation against him on that account was become very great; and besides this very disagreeable circumstance, the affair of the soldiery grieved him still more, who were alienated from him, from which yet these kings derived all the safety which they had, whenever they found the nation desirous of innovation: and all this danger was drawn upon him by his destruction of [his brethren] {Herod’s son Alexander}.

However, he governed the nation jointly with his [father] {Herod}, being indeed no other than a king already; and he was for that very reason trusted, and the more firmly depended on {by Herod}, for the which he ought himself to have been put to death, as appearing to have betrayed [his brethren] {Alexander} out of his concern for the preservation of Herod, and not rather out of his ill-will to [them] {him}[, and, before them, to his father himself]: and this was the accursed state he was in.  Now all [Antipater's] {Pheroras’s} contrivances tended to make his way to take off Herod, that he might have nobody to accuse him in the vile practices he was devising: and that Herod might have no refuge, nor any to afford him their assistance, since they must thereby have [Antipater] {Pheroras} for their open enemy; insomuch that the very plots he had laid against [his brethren] {Alexander} were occasioned by the hatred he bore [his father] {Herod}. But at this time he was more than ever set upon the execution of his attempts against Herod, because if he were once dead, the government would now be firmly secured to him; but if he were suffered to live any longer, he should be in danger, upon a discovery of that wickedness of which he had been the contriver, and [his father] {Herod} would of necessity then become his enemy.  And on this account it was that he became very bountiful to [his father's] {Herod’s} friends, and bestowed great sums on several of them, in order to surprise men with his good deeds, and take off their hatred against him.  And he sent great presents to his friends at Rome particularly, to gain their good-will; and above all to Saturninus, the president of Syria.  He also hoped to gain the favour of Saturninus's brother with the large presents he bestowed on him; as also he used the same art to Salome the king's sister, who had married one of Herod's chief friends.  And when he counterfeited friendship to those with whom he conversed, he was very subtle in gaining their belief, and very cunning to hide his hatred against any that he really did hate.

There was no Break in the Herodian Dynasty From Herod to Agrippa I   



1.As he was giving these commands to his relations, there came letters from his ambassadors, who had been sent to Rome unto Caesar, which, when they were read, their purport was this: That [Acme] {Pheroras} was slain by Caesar, out of his indignation at [what hand, she had in [Antipater's] {Alexander's} [wicked practices] {death}; 

[and that as to Antipater himself, Caesar left it to Herod to act as became a father and a king, and either to banish him, or to take away his life, which he pleased].

When Herod heard this, he was some-what better, out of the pleasure he had from the contents of the letters, and was elevated at the death of [Acme] {Pheroras} 

[, and at the power that was given him over his son];

2.but as his pains were become very great, he was now ready to [faint for want of somewhat to eat] {die};

[so he called for an apple and a knife; for it was his custom formerly to pare the apple himself, and soon afterwards to cut it, and eat it. When he had got the knife, he looked about, and had a mind to stab himself with it; and he had done it, had not his first cousin, Achiabus, prevented him, and held his hand, and cried out loudly.]

Whereupon a woeful lamentation echoed through the palace {.}

 [, and a great tumult was made, as if the king were dead. Upon which Antipater, who verily believed his father was deceased, grew bold in his discourse, as hoping to be immediately and entirely released from his bonds, and to take the kingdom into his hands without any more ado; so he discoursed with the jailer about letting him go, and in that case promised him great things, both now and hereafter, as if that were the only thing now in question. But the jailer did not only refuse to do what Antipater would have him, but informed the king of his intentions, and how many solicitations he had had from him of that nature.  Hereupon Herod, who had formerly no affection nor good-will towards his son to restrain him, when he heard what the jailer said, he cried out, and beat his head, although he was at death's door, and raised himself upon his elbow, and sent for some of his guards, and commanded them to kill Antipater without any further delay, and to do it presently, and to bury him in an ignoble manner at Hyrcania]. 



Aristobulus was granted the Kingdom of Judea by Herod (the rest was split into three)

The tetrarchy consisted of three areas not including Judea.  The three areas were governed or ruled by ethnarchs who answered to the king.  The three ethnarchs coined money themselves and probably had the ability to raise taxes which they would have paid a contribution to Rome through the king.  Judea was to be ruled by Aristobulus the oldest surviving male.  The reason Aristobulus didn't coin any money was because he had no need to.  Herod left him plenty.  

In the extant text below, Archelaus is mentioned twice.  On the first occasion, Archelaus appears to have been offered the kingdom.  On the second occasion, the writer appears confused - Archelaus is offered a tetrarchy.  

Herod's family  were killed at the battle of Arabia, not murdered by him.  

The editor wants the reader believe that Herod ordered Antipator to be killed five days before Herod died.  Antipator is fictitious. The natural form of the text is that Herod died five days after changing his will.  Herod changed his will because of the execution of Pheroras Herod's brother.

The writer has edited the text so that Herod was barbarous to "all men equally".  This cannot be true.  The testimony to Herod was originally all favourable.   

1.AND now Herod altered his testament [upon the alteration of his mind]; for he appointed Antipas, to whom he had before left the kingdom, to be tetrarch of Galilee and Perea, and granted the kingdom to [Archelaus] {Aristobulus}.  He also gave {the tetrarchy of} Gaulonitis, and Trachonitis, and Paneas to Philip, [who was his son, but own brother] and to Archelaus [by the name of a] {the} tetrarchy {of Samaria}; and bequeathed Jamnia, and Ashdod, and Phasaelis to Salome his sister, with five hundred thousand drachmae of silver that was coined. He also made provision for all the rest of his kindred, by giving them sums of money and annual revenues, and so left them all in a wealthy condition. He bequeathed [also] to [Caesar] {Aristobulus} ten millions of drachmae of coined money, besides both vessels of gold and silver, and garments exceeding costly, to [Julia, Caesar's] {Bernice, Aristobulus’s} wife[; and to certain others,] five millions. When he had done these things, he died, the fifth day after 
[he] {Augustus} had caused [Antipater] {Pheroras} to be slain; having reigned, since he had [procured] {beheaded} Antigonus [to be slain,] thirty-four years; but since he had been declared king by the Romans, thirty-seven. A man he was of great [barbarity] {magnanimity} towards all men equally

[, and a slave to his passion; but above the consideration of what was right]

; yet was he favoured by fortune as much as any man ever was, for from a private man he became a king; and though he were encompassed with ten thousand dangers, he got clear of them all, and continued his life till a very old age.  But then, as to the affairs of his family and children

[in which indeed, according to his own opinion, he was also very fortunate, because he was able to conquer his enemies, yet, in my opinion],

he was herein very unfortunate.    


Saturday, June 07, 2014

Nero Makes an End of the Revolt (War 7.1.1-3 and 7.2.1)

Nero Makes an End of the Revolt (War 7.1.1-3 and 7.2.1)

The writer makes out that the whole population of Jerusalem was wiped out by Vespasian's forces and that the entire city of Jerusalem was destroyed.  This was not the case. In reality the revolt by the priests against the Romans was of short duration.   The priests numbered approximately 30000 in total throughout Judea.  The fortresses, including Machaerus, Qumran and Masada which had been occupied by the priests, were stormed by Nero's forces.  The Romans were then let into the city by the prophets, and they then proceeded to kill the priests.  Many of the priests probably fled.  There was pressure from the soldiery to destroy the temple, the source of the dispute between priests and prophets. Nero insisted that the temple should be left standing, to show the world what the temple was at its core.  It was a place where the Spirit of God had been worshipped since the time of Judas Maccabeus at the altar of incense and it was going to stay that way.  God was to be worshipped in the Spirit.  Josephus's text has it that the temple was destroyed and three towers left standing. This did occur five or six years later when Vespasian seized power and set fire to the temple after he had recovered all the gold from within it. 

Nero left the tenth legion and other troops to guard the city.  This was a city which Titus had supposedly destroyed along with its inhabitants so  "that there was left nothing to make those that came thither believe it had ever been inhabited."  This was pure propaganda. Nero's real intention was to prevent those priests who escaped from returning to persecute the prophets. A number of priests including Josephus were put in prison.  The temple was to be guarded by the prophets and the Roman troops left behind.. There followed five or six years of peace, called by the scholars the years of the revolt. Marriages were arranged and land was bought and sold during that time, as Martin Goodman says, very strangely for a historian.  

When he had thanked his troops Nero, left with the twelfth legion for Greece where he took part in the Isthmian games. As he travelled through Greece he celebrated his victory over the priests with his Greek hosts by granting them freedom.  An inscription found in Greece recorded what Nero said: "Other leaders have liberated cities, only Nero a province".       


1.NOW as soon as the army had no more [people] {priests} to slay 

[or to plunder, because there remained none to be the objects of their fury, for they would not have spared any, had there remained any other work to be done],

[Caesar] {Nero} gave orders that they should [now demolish the entire city and] {leave the} temple {standing}

[, but should leave as many of the towers standing as were of the greatest eminency; that is, Phasaelus, and Hippicus, and Mariamne; and so much of the wall as enclosed the city on the west side.]

[This wall] {The temple} was spared, in order to

[afford a camp for such as were to lie in garrison, as were the towers also spared, in order to]

demonstrate to posterity what kind of [city] {temple} it was,

[and how well fortified, which the Roman valour had subdued;
but for all the rest of the wall, it was so thoroughly laid even with the ground by those that dug it up to the foundation, that there was left nothing to make those that came thither believe it had ever been inhabited. This was the end which Jerusalem came to by the madness of those that were for innovations;a city otherwise of great magnificence, and of mighty fame among all mankind.]

2. But [Caesar] {Nero} resolved to leave [there, as] a guard, the tenth legion, with certain troops of horsemen, and companies of footmen. So, having ENTIRELY COMPLETED THIS WAR, he was desirous to commend his whole army, on account of the great exploits they had performed, and to bestow proper rewards on such as had signalized themselves therein. He had therefore a great tribunal made for him in the midst of [the place where he had formerly encamped, and stood upon it] {Masada} with his principal commanders about him, and spake so as to be heard by the whole army in the manner following:

That he returned them abundance of thanks for their good-will which they had showed to him: he commended them for that ready obedience they had exhibited in this whole war, which obedience had appeared in the many and great dangers which they had courageously undergone; as also for that courage they had shown, and had thereby augmented of themselves their country's power, and had made it evident to all men, that neither the multitude of their enemies, nor the strength of their places, [nor the largeness of their cities,] nor the rash boldness and brutish rage of their antagonists, were sufficient at any time to get clear of the Roman valour, although some of them may have fortune in many respects on their side.

He said further, that it was but reasonable for them to put an end to this [war, now it had lasted so long] {revolt}, 

[for that they had nothing better to wish for when they entered into it; and that this happened more favourably for them, and more for their glory, that all the Romans had willingly accepted of those for their governors, and the curators of their dominions, whom they had chosen for them, and had sent into their own country for that purpose, which still continued under the management of those whom they had pitched on, and were thankful to them for pitching upon them.]

that accordingly, although he did both admire and tenderly regard them all, because he knew that every one of them had gone as cheerfully about their work as their abilities and opportunities would give them leave; yet, he said, that he would immediately bestow rewards and dignities on those that had fought the most bravely, and with greater force, and had signalized their conduct in the most glorious manner, and had made his army more famous by their noble exploits; and that no one who had been willing to take more pains than another should miss of a just retribution for the same; for that he had been exceeding careful about this matter, and that the more, because he had much rather reward the virtues of his fellow soldiers than punish such as had offended.

3. Hereupon [Titus] {Nero} ordered those whose business it was to read the list of all that had performed great exploits in this war, whom he called to him by their names, and commended them before the company, and rejoiced in them in the same manner as a man would have rejoiced in his own exploits.

[He also put on their heads crowns of gold, and golden ornaments about their necks, and gave them long spears of gold,. and ensigns that were made of silver, and removed every one of them to a higher rank; and besides this, he plentifully distributed among them, out of the spoils, and the other prey they had taken, silver, and gold, and garments. So when they had all these honours bestowed on them, according to his own appointment made to every one, and he had wished all sorts of happiness to the whole army, he came down, among the great acclamations which were made to him, and then betook himself to offer thank-offerings to the gods, and at once sacrificed a vast number of oxen, that stood ready at the altars, and distributed them among the army to feast on.]

And when he had staid three days among the principal commanders, and so long feasted with them, he sent away the rest of his army to the several places where they would be every one best situated; but permitted the tenth legion to stay, as a guard at Jerusalem

[, and did not send them away beyond Euphrates, where they had been before.  And as he remembered that the twelfth legion had given way to the Jews under Cestius their general, he expelled them out of all Syria, for they had lain formerly at Raphanea, and sent them away to a place called Meletine, near Euphrates, which is in the limits of Armenia and Cappadocia;]

he also thought fit that [two of] the {twelfth} legion[s] should stay with him till he should go to [Egypt] {Greece}. He then went down with his army to that Caesarea which lay by the sea-side

[, and there laid up the rest of his spoils in great quantities, and gave order that the captives should he kept there; for the winter season hindered him then from sailing into Italy].



1.NOW [at the same time that Titus Caesar lay at the siege of Jerusalem], did [Vespasian] {Nero} go on board [a merchantship] {his ship} and sailed from [Alexandria] {Caesarea} to Rhodes; [whence he sailed away, in ships with three rows of oars;] and as he touched at several cities that lay in his road, he was joyfully received by them all, and so passed over from Ionia into Greece;