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 to depress these young men".  16.3.3. (16.78)  Antipater was supposedly Alexander's and Aristobulus's antagonist. And of course "Antipater was a shrewd man" .  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 was murdered by the power seeking king Archelaus of Cappadocia, and the father of Glaphyra, Alexander's wife.  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". This was a quotation interpolated by the Church Fathers.  Vermes wrote: "after witnessing his cruelty towards Mariamne's children, Caesar Augustus saw through him".   This was a reflection of what the Church Fathers thought of Herod and his son Alexander who were followers of the prophets.  




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.