Thursday, December 15, 2016

The Embassy to Gaius, the Number(s) of the Beast, and the Book of Revelation

I made some comments on Mark Goodacre's blog on the above topic which he has deleted, so I will continue the topic here.  You wouldn't think that this topic had anything to do with the priests being kicked out of the temple at the time of Judas Maccabeus.  Well it certainly has to do with an outcome of that.  It led to the revolt of the priests against their rulers and the prophets, and two years later the war against the Romans.  If you haven't watched the short video taken from a BBC series Bible Mysteries in 2003 on Mark Goodacre's blog then I would like you to do so.

The video is shocking with its images of a snarling beast.  The message of the video  is conveyed with a subtle scholarly air of authority. One English professor, Ian Boxall (now in America) casually chalking on a piece of pottery shows that Revelation's 666 is the code for Nero.  He assumes we already understand Nero to be evil or beastly.  Never mind that Nero was accused of all sorts of crimes which he did not commit.  This was by a subsequent hostile Flavian dynasty who distorted the history to an incredible degree.  The blaming of Nero is almost exactly the same as that meted out to Herod.  What was the crime that Nero was supposed to have committed when he was found guilty by the senate for being an 'enemy of the public'?  Was it for being an atheist, denying Roman gods?  Or could the crime of being an enemy of the public include the crime of being an atheist?  Was Nero converted to a Jewish prophetic belief in the Spirit of God?  I think he was.  (See my post: Nero and His Mother Follow the Prophets). Nero's murders of his family were fabricated the same as Herod's so-called murders of his family. There are obvious similarities between the generally accepted accounts of the two rulers.  Both accounts betray fabrication which was   typical of Roman historians in the first century.  

I sent the following email on 3/01/2017 to Professor Mary Beard, the joint author of a book Religions of Rome:
Dear Mary
Which would have been worse for a member of the Roman elite standing trial before the senate in the first century: 
 -to be accused of atheism/denial of the Roman gods, or
 -to be accused of being an enemy of the public?
 Or could the crime of being enemy of the public include the former crime?  
Mary has not yet replied, but I have read the relevant part of her book.  I think that Nero was accused of being an enemy of the public because he granted freedom to both Jews and Greeks.  This would have been a reverse of usual Roman policy.  

Then there is a second English professor David Parker (University of Birmingham) who tells us about some fragments of manuscript from Oxyrhynchus in Egypt. This manuscript has a number 616 which he calmly tells us is code for Gaius Caesar who we might think was equally bad as Nero.  Mark, take note, the commentator assumes that John is the author of both the book of Revelation and the third century fragment of Revelation found at Oxyrhynchus.  Quite clearly, there must have been two different authors involved to have two numbers of the beast.  In both cases I suggest we have editing of an original manuscript, which the commentator erroneously describes as an 'ancient apocalyptic tradition'.    

We were told in the video told that the early Greeks and Romans loved encoding.  It is a pity computers weren't invented then.  Those early writers could have applied their brains to more useful things.  Both numbers were probably substituted by people interpreting history as they received it from their ruling classes.  This is typical of the way early manuscripts were written or developed. In the case of Revelation the text was certainly developed from an earlier time.

As the video implies, Gaius Caesar is made to appear exceptionally evil because he is supposed to have ordered that his statue be erected in the Jewish temple.  One would naturally think such an action would have upset the Jews. 

The account is in Antiquities 18.8. The embassy to Gaius from Jews and Greeks of Alexandria is an edited account.  Jewish inhabitants of Alexandria have been substituted for priests from Jerusalem, and Greeks of Alexandria for prophets from Jerusalem.  The dispute was not between Jews and Greeks, but between priests and prophets.  And the 'embassy' was not to Gaius but to Agrippa.  Josephus, a priest, was writing for the Romans in 94, about events which occurred around 35 years earlier in 60 CE approximately. He was not going to admit the existence of prophets, or that priests were involved.  Josephus was editing an existing Antiquities.  

And you can forget about Philo representing the Jews, and Apion the Greeks.  They were both dead when Josephus was writing, so he could please himself what he wrote.   The account in Philo was not written by Philo.  It is a fabrication written after the time of Josephus, a massive 30,000 words approximately compared to 3,200 words in Ant. 18.8. There was no expense spared in re-writing history.  The account of the Embassy to Gaius in Philo is so far fetched and bears little relation to the record in Antiquities. In Philo, it is Agrippa who gets Gaius to change his mind about erecting his statue in the temple.  Apion representing Greeks is totally absent in Philo.  It was Gaius's death that let Petronius off the hook in Antiquities.  The accounts in both books are fabrications.

No reason for the 'disturbance' (Ant.18.257) between Jews and Greeks of Alexandria is given.  There is thus no connection with Gaius wanting to erect his statue in the temple in Jerusalem. (Ant.18.261).  The 'disturbance' was between the priests and prophets in Jerusalem.  The priests wanted to erect an altar for burning sacrificed animals.  This altar had been removed by Judas Maccabeus some 200 years previously when he purged the temple.  There had been no animal sacrifices since ,and no appointment of high priests. The priests had not been able to sacrifice in the temple through the time of the Hasmoneans and Herodians. Their frustration was building up to a peak.  War between Agrippa's forces and the priests was looming. That war eventually led to the death of Agrippa, and the intervention of the Romans under Nero.  

I doubt that representatives were chosen from the each 'party' (Ant.18.257), (the priests and the prophets) to go before Agrippa who would have been well aware of the views of the prophets. He was a prophet himself.  A representative of the priests probably went to Agrippa and charged the prophets with not sacrificing animals to God in accordance with the law (see Ant.18.266).   Agrippa became angry and 'directed him to be gone'.

Petronius was appointed Governor of Syria but that is all.  Agrippa was a trusted king who could manage his affairs well.  Ant.18.261- 288 involving Petronius is thus fabrication.

Aristobulus's Plot Against His Brother Agrippa
In Ant.18.289 we have 'But King Agrippa now lived at Rome'.  This is extremely unlikely. Ant.18.273 introduces King Agrippa's brother Aristobulus who was for the priests.  I suggest that it was this brother who lived at Rome who had gained the favour of Gaius.  Aristobulus spent a small fortune entertaining Gaius and offering him gifts.  He did nothing less than try to persuade Gaius ('cast the die' , Ant.18.298) to let the priests rebuild (erect) their altar for burnt offering.  He knew he was asking for something that would be dangerous for him to do.  Gaius admired Agrippa's virtue or piety and his administration.  He understood that Aristobulus's request would lead to war. He refused Aristobulus's request saying something to the effect 'I will make you an example to the present and to all future ages that they may not dare to contradict the commands of their Emperor'.  He had Aristobulus executed for plotting against his brother.  

News of Gaius's Death
In the extant text of Antiquities, Gaius supposedly wrote to Petronius.  We have the fanciful excuse of the ship carrying the letter going so slow that other letters came to Petronius telling him that Gaius had died. As if that wasn't enough, a little after the first letter, another letter was supposed to have been sent (presumably from Gaius while he was alive) telling Petronius to commit suicide. Needless to say Petronius rejoiced at Gaius's death.  Believe that and you will believe anything.  Endings with no resulting outcome are typical of Josephus. In reality, Gaius wrote to Agrippa giving him the details of Aristobulus's plot (Ant.18.305) to support the priests, and his execution.   
The Book of Revelation (to be continued)