I’ve heard some stories about Josephus’ histories, and its mention of Jesus-ben-Ananias (or something to that effect), who prophesied Jerusalem’s destruction about 60 AD. I’ve met some people claiming that the similarities between Josephus’ account of his trial and the Gospels’ description of Jesus’ trial “prove” that Matthew copied the description of the trial from Josephus. Does anyone here know anything that might throw more light on this issue? I’d like to have something to say back.
There are multiple individuals in Josephus’ writings named Jesus. The one you ask about was killed by a stone, though the strange similarity to being whipped or scourged as well is unusual. If this was some sort of strange attempt to reference Jesus I don’t know. Josephus plainly mentions the Lord in another passage, so we could assume it’s not the Lord. Anyway check out this Blog Post for more on the other Jesus’.
But, what is still more terrible, there was one Jesus, the son of Ananus, a plebeian and a husbandman, who, four years before the war began [AD 62], and at a time when the city was in very great peace and prosperity, came to that feast whereon it is our custom for every one to make tabernacles to God in the temple, began on a sudden to cry aloud, “A voice from the east, a voice from the west, a voice from the four winds, a voice against Jerusalem and the Holy House, a voice against the bridegrooms and the brides, and a voice against this whole people!” This was his cry, as he went about by day and by night, in all the lanes of the city.
However, certain of the most eminent among the populace had great indignation at this dire cry of his, and took up the man, and gave him a great number of severe stripes; yet did not he either say any thing for himself, or any thing peculiar to those that chastised him, but still went on with the same words which he cried before. Hereupon the magistrates, supposing, as the case proved to be, that this was a sort of divine fury in the man, brought him to the Roman procurator, where he was whipped till his bones were laid bare; yet he did not make any supplication for himself, nor shed any tears, but turning his voice to the most lamentable tone possible, at every stroke of the whip his answer was, “Woe, woe to Jerusalem!” And when Albinus (for he was then our procurator) asked him, Who he was? and whence he came? and why he uttered such words? he made no manner of reply to what he said, but still did not leave off his melancholy ditty, till Albinus took him to be a madman, and dismissed him.
Now, during all the time that passed before the war began, this man did not go near any of the citizens, nor was seen by them while he said so; but he every day uttered these lamentable words, as if it were his premeditated vow, “Woe, woe to Jerusalem!” Nor did he give ill words to any of those that beat him every day, nor good words to those that gave him food; but this was his reply to all men, and indeed no other than a melancholy presage of what was to come.
This cry of his was the loudest at the festivals; and he continued this ditty for seven years and five months, without growing hoarse, or being tired therewith, until the very time that he saw his presage in earnest fulfilled in our siege, when it ceased; for as he was going round upon the wall, he cried out with his utmost force, “Woe, woe to the city again, and to the people, and to the Holy House!” And just as he added at the last, “Woe, woe to myself also!” there came a stone out of one of the engines, and smote him, and killed him immediately; and as he was uttering the very same presages he gave up the ghost.
There are indeed some similarities between the two Jesuses: they preached “woes” and predicted the destruction of Jerusalem; the leaders of Jerusalem (certain of the most eminent among the populace) bring both men to the incumbent Roman governor; the accused says nothing to defend himself. But if we compare that Jesus to our Jesus, there are also differences in the outcome. We could see why Jesus of Nazareth was executed rather than simply flogged. (Funny observation: in Luke 23:16 and 22, Pilate proposes to the people gathered that Jesus, whom he views as harmless, be simply chastised and released - something which was actually done in Jesus son of Ananias’ case.) Jesus of Nazareth had a following (maybe not that large, but a following nevertheless). He spoke of a ‘Kingdom’ of quite some time. He had taken physical action in the Temple. And most importantly, He was not mad (or at least was not deemed to be), which makes Him all the more dangerous. Pilate and Caiaphas apparently knew that He was not breeding a secret army and was planning to use force (otherwise, His followers would have also been rounded up), and that is not their cause to be concerned. Rather, they feared that Jesus could rouse the mob with what He has been doing for almost a week. That’s the reason why both Jesuses were arrested really: what made Jesus Christ’s ultimate fate different from Jesus son of Ananias is that the latter was ultimately deemed to be too mad to pose any actual threat. (We could read the gospels as implying that Pilate was somewhat willing to let Jesus off by playing the same ‘He’s a harmless idiot’ card, but he is ultimately persuaded not to.)
Seriously, Josephus speaks of quite a number of Jesuses in his two works. There were a lot of ‘Jesuses’ in 1st century, if he and the archaeological record is of any evidence.
If the fear that Jesus could rouse a mob was enough to get Jesus executed, then why weren’t his known followers also killed when they openly enlisted thousands of new followers – in Jesus’s name – into his new “kingdom” – just mere weeks after his execution?
(I really did resist replying, but the anachronisms found in the way the Romans treated Jesus’s followers is just too interesting not to comment upon.)
One theory has it that when Jesus was arrested, it was specifically because the Syrian President Vitellius was due shortly in Jerusalem.
And so Jesus was quickly crucified before he arrived.
This would be assuming the Passover of Jesus’ crucifixion was A.D. 36.
Interestingly, Vitellius REMOVED Caiaphas at the end of that Passover celebration before returning to Syria.
If we assume that Vitellius was angry at Caiaphas for moving against the harmless Jesus, then we have a reason why the next High Priest, Jonanthan, was initially tolerant of the Christians and let them alone, to a degree, in the months after the Passover.
However, irritating Christians like Stephen pushed him over the edge, and Saul was unleased along with others, and the Christians were a targeted group.
Vitellius returned to Jerusalem for the Passover of A.D. 37, and, interestingly, removed Jonathan as High Priest.
Is there a connection between Jonathan’s removal and his persecutions of the Christians?
source: Hagan Fires of Rome, Year of the Passover
Cornbread, if you had done your reading assignments, you would know about this theory!
By itself the diet book is nothing, although to be honest with you the way the title reads (The Essene Diet: The Holistic Pathway to Health and Weight Loss) reminds me of a score of books and webpages, even movements with ‘Essene’ tacked on them - many of which are quite fishy/way out there. And I’m not the type of person who thinks that unless you’ve got formal academic credentials, you can never ever write a book (after all, there are some folks out there - I’m not giving out names - who despite being formal academics, write, dare I say it, rubbish), so Hagan - if that’s actually his name - can write all the books on 1st century history he wants.
Just an aside, I don’t know who exactly to blame here for the wacky ideas some people have about the Essenes - Josephus and Philo who went into detail about (really - almost sensationalized) their alleged practices, or those 18th-19th century authors who ran away with them and turned the Essenes into the ancient version of the Freemasons or the Illuminati, or at least, your average conspiracy theorist’s idea of what Freemasons/Illuminati are: that secretive cabal who lurks in the shadows and manipulates events from behind the curtain, so to speak, albeit less ‘evil’, or those secret societies and people who jumped in the bandwagon and started applying ‘Essene’ to themselves or to random stuff as if that would give them an air of mystique and credibility. Perhaps all of them, but what do I know?
That being said, I don’t get why he chooses to be that secretive. Also what I find kind of strange is that how little-known his books are: I haven’t really found a proper review of it. The Amazon pages on them aren’t of much help either. And yes, I haven’t read either of his works so I can’t assess it from that perspective either, but from what I can infer (just my gut feeling here - feel free to correct me), I would think that the main flaw in Hagan’s thesis is that he seems to take Josephus too literally at face value. I note that the one actually informative review on Amazon states:
I have learned through correspondence with the author that he writes under a pen name. Hagan is also a trained medical doctor, and demonstrates a scientific discipline in writing history. He carefully evaluates those sources that he uses - the NT, Tacitus, Suetonius, Philo, Dio, and most importantly, Flavius Josephus. Hagan dismisses outright the Talmud, the Apocrypha, and most of the writings of the Church Fathers, though it can be argued that he is missing valuable perspective in doing so.
…] Hagan’s two indexed books, more than a thousand pages combined, also stand very well on their own as Roman and Jewish historical references sources. I will criticize Hagan for overuse of quotations (which make up over ten percent of the book) and over repetition of basic themes. Having said that, I find his use of the bibliography very helpful in that in the two volumes, I have the core extant relevant historical writings of the first century.
Using just Josephus and a few more besides is a nice concept, yes, but I fear that if Hagan has this sort of bias against some sources (admittedly late ones though) like the Fathers and is using the ones he does choose uncritically, it really kinda defeats the meaning of scholarship. You might as well just actually just pick up an actual copy of Josephus. That’s just my wild mass guess though.
P.S. Hagan’s idea of a late date for Jesus’ execution is not new: it had been around for quite some time actually. One of the more well-known recent proponents of this idea is Nikos Kokkinos.
Recently there has been a renewed flurry of interest in the date of Jesus’ execution, and I have added an appendix on this topic. Here I wish to comment generally on the mistakes (as I perceive them to be) of the scholars who bring forth extreme proposals on such points, such as that Jesus was executed in 26 or 36. Since the evidence is diverse and hard to reconcile precisely, there is a tendency to seize on one point, to say that it is determinative, and then to beat the other pieces of evidence into the necessary shape. That is, there is a danger of sporadic fundamentalism in studying ancient texts – not just the Bible. ‘Fundamentalism’ refers to the notion that some ancient text – or ancient literature in general – tells the precise and unvarnished truth. Fundamentalism, however, is always sporadic: fundamentalists believe that some people never exaggerated, made mistakes or mislaid their notes; or, at least, that some sections of texts are perfectly reliable. Reading chronological studies on the New Testament reveals a lot of fundamentalism – usually sporadic. A scholar will maintain, for example, that John’s chronology is better than Mark’s and Matthew’s (and thus that theirs is not true). Next, he or she will accept John on the numerous points where that gospel disagrees with the other three: there were three Passovers during Jesus’ public career rather than one, he was executed in 14 Nisan rather than 15 Nisan, and during his ministry he was in his forties (he was ‘not yet fifty’, John 8.57) rather than in his thirties, as Luke has it. Having dismissed the chronology of Matthew, Mark and Luke, some scholars then seize upon Matthew’s story of the star that stood over Jesus’ birthplace, and they try to match it with the appearance of a comet – apparently not noticing that this particular star, according to our only description of it, did not blaze across the heavens, but rather ‘stopped over the place where the child was’ (Matt. 2.9). Why take the star of Matthew’s story to be a real astral event and ignore what the author says about it? Why pay attention to Matthew’s star anyway, since he was wrong about the date of Jesus’ death (which John got perfectly right)?
These same scholars are the very ones who decide that some of the paragraphs in Josephus are the literal and complete truth, and that in them he told it just like it was, without shifting a word, but that other paragraphs do not count: since Josephus places his discussion of Jesus in an earlier section of Antiquities 18 than the section of John, one of these is precisely correct, and the other must be moved. (In fact, these sections of Josephus’ work are not in chronological order: see Appendix I.)
Ancient history is difficult. It requires all common sense and a good feel for sources. Our sources contain information about Jesus, but we cannot get at it by dogmatically deciding that some sentences are accurate and some are fiction. The truth will usually lie somewhere in between. As I have already said more than once, and may repeat several more times, we have very good knowledge of Jesus at a somewhat general level. With regard to chronology, we know that he was active during some part of the period 26-36 CE. It is wrongheaded to try to turn the gospels – and, for that matter, Josephus – into modern encyclopaedia articles, or to suppose that one sentence is dead right, and the others are completely wrong.
Sanders’ criticism of the AD 35-36 crucifixion date (generally expressed against the idea as expounded by Nikos Kokkinos) is in pp. 286-290 of the book. It’s quite long so I’ll leave it for later.
Hagan’s books are far more Roman and Jewish history that Christian.
I like how he takes characters in the New Testament that are also found in Tacitus and Josephus, and gives their biographies.
In fact, that is how he derives his A.D. 36 crucifixion date- using the the history of Herod Agrippa (Agrippa I) and combine it with the the history of Agrippa’s sister, Herodias, who was the wife of Herod Antipas, to derive the A.D. 36 crucifixion date.
Frankly, I like the extensive quotes from the ancient sources. It shows he is not making unwarranted assumptions- or at least can leave it up to the reader whether he is interpreting things correctly.
I would turn things around, Patrick. Those who do NOT take Josephus at face value better have strong reasons for not doing so. And if they substitute later Christian sources in the place of what Josephus might say on a subject, I MIGHT suggest that that is bad scholarship.
I will buy the Essene Diet and see what it is about.
I would turn things around again, Steve. It’s a given in scholarship that you question everything. In a perfect scenario, you do not assume automatically that something is completely correct and then try to fit all the evidence into it - that would be what Sanders would call ‘scholarly fundamentalism’. And you do not simply summarily dismiss sources just because they are late: sure, earlier sources are to be preferred whenever possible and one should be wary of simply taking late sources at face value, but at the very least ( I’ve probably already said this once) I think Hagan falls into the pitfall many modern historical Jesus scholars fall into - the assumption that there is a divide between Jesus and Christianity.
And this is why I have a problem with some aspects of modern historical Jesus scholarship: they also cherry-pick. They apply the “question everything” tactic to the gospels - which is fine academically - but when it comes to other sources like Josephus, they take his words as if they are gospel truth (pun totally intended). You ever heard of the portrait of Pilate as a heartless monster? That’s based on taking what Philo and Josephus said about the man at face value.
As I said, the idea of a late crucifixion around AD 35 or AD 36 is kind of a rehash of Nikos Kokkinos (“Crucifixion in AD 36: The Keystone for Dating the Birth of Jesus”), Hugh Schonfield (The Pentecost Revolution: The Story of the Jesus Party in Israel, A.D. 36-66, 1974 - yeah, the guy who wrote The Passover Plot), Kirsopp Lake (The Date of Herod’s Marriage with Herodias and the Chronology of fhe Gospels, 1912) and - the grand-daddy of the theory - Karl Theodor Keim (Die Geschichte Jesu von Nazara (‘The History of Jesus of Nazara’), 1883). On the other hand you’ve also got people like Robert Eisler and Jerry Vardaman who argue that Jesus was actually crucified very early, around AD 21. In the PDF I posted earlier Sanders addresses the problems of these two ideas. (Notes omitted)
The scholars who date Jesus’ execution in 36 note that Josephus narrates Antipas’ marriage to Herodias after the story of the death of Philip, Antipas’ brother, which was late in 33 or early in 34. This marriage led to Aretas’ invasion of Galilee and the defeat of Antipas’ army. Vitellius, the Roman legate of Syria, led a punitive expedition against Aretas. Vitellius’ expedition took place in 37, since it was interrupted by Tiberius’ death in that year.7
According to the gospels, John’s criticism of Antipas’ marriage led to his execution. If Antipas married Herodias after 34 CE, obviously John was executed after that date. This leads to the conclusion that Jesus was active in the mid-30s and was executed in 36, shortly before Pilate was recalled to Rome. According to this theory, both John and Jesus must be fitted into the period between the death of Philip, which was in 33 or 34, and Vitellius’ expedition, which was in 37.
The problem with this is that, in this section of Josephus’ Antiquities, many of the stories are not in chronological order. They are prefaced by such phrases as ‘about this time’, ‘about the same time’ and ‘meanwhile’. We shall look at the sequence in which Josephus mentions the people and events that concern us, as well as a few other events that can be firmly dated. I have put in brackets dates for which the chronological evidence is very strong.
[INDENT]1. the appointment of Pilate, Antiq. 18.35 (26 CE)
2. the death of Germanicus, 18.54 (19 CE)
3. the life of Jesus, 18.638
4. a scandal in Rome involving the Isis cult, and another scandal involving Jews, also in Rome
5. the dismissal of Pilate, 18.89, giving a specific date: by the time Pilate reached Rome,
Tiberius had died (37 CE)
6. the dismissal of Caiaphas, 18.95
7. a letter from Tiberius to Vitellius 18.96
8. the death of Philip, 18.106 (33/34 CE)
9. Antipas’ agreement to marry Herodias, 18.110
10. the trip of Aretas’ daughter to her father, 18.111-13
11. Aretas’ invasion, 18.114
12. the death of John the Baptist, 18.116-119
13. the punitive expedition against Aretas, during which Tiberius died, 18.120-26 (37 CE)
In Josephus’ account the life of Jesus comes between two events that took place in 19 CE, and John’s execution falls between events dated in 33 and 37 CE. The proposal that Jesus’ active career ran from about 34 to 36 requires us to believe that Josephus put the death of John the Baptist in its proper place, but not the life of Jesus. For the life of Jesus, we must, instead, accept the gospels’ connection of John and Jesus. Since we ‘know’ the date of John’s death, Jesus’ career must be shifted later.
It is not surprising that some scholars take the opposite tack: we know the date of Germanicus’ death: 19 CE. Other events in this section of the Antiquities also can be securely dated to the period 15-19 CE. Pilate’s appointment precedes this event in Josephus’ narrative; therefore he was appointed before 19 CE. Consequently, Jesus was active much earlier than 26-36. Actually, he was crucified in 21 CE.9
Both these theories assume that a section of Book 18 in Josephus’ Antiquities places events in their actual sequence, but they disagree about which section it is.10 In either case, the tail wags the dog. One fixed point gives a precise date to the neighbouring stories, and then the rest of the evidence is forced to fit. According to the theory that Jesus dies shortly before 37, Josephus refers to his life too early. According to the theory that he died in 21, Josephus refers to John the Baptist too late. According to both theories, he was completely correct with regard to one event, and completely wrong with regard to the other.[/INDENT]
Instead of allowing one supposedly fixed point to date everything else, we should back off and look at the evidence more generally. In this section of his work, Josephus is not narrating events in their proper chronological order. Tiberius dies, then writes a letter, and then dies (see 5, 7, and 13). Part of the arrangement is, as far as I can tell, random (except that everything relates to the period of Tiberius’ rule), but part is topical. Item 4 above appears where it does because it concludes with a Roman attempt to force Jews to serve in the army, which was against the sabbath law (18.84). This is faintly connected to one of Pilate’s affronts to the Jewish law, which Josephus relates in 18.60-62. Thus an event from the year 19 (scandals in Rome) appears to come between 26 and 36 (Pilate’s prefecture in Judaea). The scandals of 19 CE, however, are too firmly fixed by Roman evidence to allow them to deceive biblical scholars. Jesus and John the Baptist, of course, cannot be precisely dated by Roman evidence, since their immediate impact was so slight, and consequently they can be moved around if one supposes that Josephus’ sequence in some section or other was precise.
Oh yeah, since we’re talking about the author anyway (apologies to the OP ), I’m curious about another point. From what I gather and from what I can recall from Steve, Hagan proposes that Jesus was influenced by the Essenes - am I right? I quote from the Amazon review:
Hagan indirectly portrays Jesus as being far more opportunistic than divinely inspired. He suggests that much of Jesus’ philosophy was adapted from existing Essene philosophy, with input from other ascetics and Jewish sects that abounded in the Mount Carmel region of the Galilee. The controversial Communion ceremony is tackled head-on. With occult and cannibalistic overtones, it was this ritual that so outraged the Jews and Romans of ancient times.
I still stand by what I said at least three years ago: in this particular point, the argument used by Steve three years ago in the other thread - if that’s actually Hagan’s - (which, to his credit, he did disown in a following post) is rather weak, for example the fact that Josephus said that the Essenes wore white, and Jesus is portrayed as wearing white. I quote Steve:
Jesus is most commonly linked to the Essene, for his peace-loving ways and his parables concerning shepherding and agriculture. The Essene wore white robes only, and so Jesus is usually pictured as wearing one. The Essene had their own set of ceremonies, and during the day left their monastic commune to work in the community tending to livestock or working the fields. Hence the connection with Jesus and his parables.
As I mentioned, I don’t know if this is actually what Hagan argues, but I would say for one that his choice to ignore Christian sources would seem to fail him here.
I don’t want to get longwinded here, so I’ll cut to the point: Christian art historically had more emphasis on portraying things in a symbolic rather than a literal way. It’s true that in early Christian catacomb art, you see Jesus wearing white-ish clothing, but note: the clothes are usually those of a Greco-Roman philosopher or shepherd. I doubt the historical Jesus really looked like a clean-shaven handsome young man wearing a Roman tunic and toga or pallium. The (non-Jewish) Christians who made these artworks did not pay heed to the fact of Jesus being a 1st century Jew; instead they simply visualized Him somewhat symbolically, in terms of their own social context - as a philosopher or a ‘divine man’ or hero in the mold of Greco-Roman deities like Apollo, Orpheus or Hermes.
In later artworks, you even see Christ wearing (1) a gold tunic and cloak; (2) a purple tunic and cloak with gold lining (clavi) or (3) a red tunic with a blue cloak - again with gold clavi. And even in these cases the intention is obviously not to show or guess what the actual color of Jesus’ clothes were historically (I don’t think the historical Jesus actually wore anything colored gold or purple - well, save for that one time with Roman soldiers and the “purple cloak”): purple and gold are obviously imperial colors (i.e. Christ as king). Red and blue also came to have a symbolic meaning. The only time you see Jesus wearing white in these later artworks (particularly in Eastern icons) are during the Transfiguration and the Resurrection - again obviously not events which would give any actual indication of the ‘regular’ color of Jesus’ clothes. (Although this isn’t a hard-and-fast rule: in some depictions of the Resurrection, Jesus could be wearing His ‘normal’ red-and-blue, or an all-golden set, or - in some medieval Western depictions particularly - a red mantle.)
Besides, the default color of fabric is white or off-white: we might infer that Josephus’ Essenes wore undyed clothing. But I highly doubt that everyone who wore ‘white’ clothes in 1st century Palestine was an Essene.
"I would turn things around again, Steve. It’s a given in scholarship that you question everything. In a perfect scenario, you do not assume automatically that something is completely correct and then try to fit all the evidence into it - that would be what Sanders would call ‘scholarly fundamentalism’. And you do not simply summarily dismiss sources just because they are late: sure, earlier sources are to be preferred whenever possible and one should be wary of simply taking late sources at face value, but at the very least ( I’ve probably already said this once) I think Hagan falls into the pitfall many modern historical Jesus scholars fall into - the assumption that there is a divide between Jesus and Christianity.
And this is why I have a problem with some aspects of modern historical Jesus scholarship: they also cherry-pick. They apply the “question everything” tactic to the gospels - which is fine academically - but when it comes to other sources like Josephus, they take his words as if they are gospel truth (pun totally intended). You ever heard of the portrait of Pilate as a heartless monster? That’s based on taking what Philo and Josephus said about the man at face value. "
Hagan, in his intro, states that he is not a theologian and didn’t care where his research led him. He was working off what he considered to be the best historic sources, all of which are flawed to some degree and yes, this is a judgment call.
But you can’t assign equal weights to every source you use.
By default, Josephus should be accepted over other non-Christian sources. And I agree with that.
It is hardly cherry-picking.
It is what it is.
Josephus was a near-contemporary of Jesus’, which places him above all other sources except maybe for Philo.
And we know who he was because he wrote his own autobiography.
Josephus has errors in numbers most likely, but they could be translational.
He was dismissed for a long time partially due to his description of the seaport of Caesarea, but that has been confirmed.
Josephus has biases- but they can be derived from his own biography. He was great friends with the Vespasian family, and, more importantly, Agrippa II. So Herodias and Salome, Agrippa II’s aunt and cousin respectively, were given a pass when it came to the reason for the execution of JB.
So pay your money and take your choice.
But Hagan outlines the Roman and Jewish world of those times, and then turns to the characters and Christian events in the NT and tries to fit things together.
His “default” perspective are the realities of the Roman and Jewish worlds that the early Christians found themselves in. Like today, it was a world driven by power, money, and politics.
Steve, I’ll be frank: you remember that other thread where I (or rather, the guy I linked to - Larry Hurtado) talked about Reza Aslan’s idea of Jesus being a Zealot being a ‘zombie claim’? For some reason I’m also thinking this to be the case here. Based on your (Steve) description of his ideas, I can’t help but think that Hagan had simply rehashed the ideas of Nikos Kokkinos - that Jesus was born in 12 BC and crucified in AD 36.
Kokkinos and the late E. Jeremiah ‘Jerry’ Vardaman read the same passage of Josephus and came to totally different conclusions. Kokkinos pushed for a late crucifixion date of 36, while Vardaman had argued that Jesus was actually crucified at AD 21 and that the chronology should be pushed earlier. And here’s the funny thing: they both agreed that Jesus was born at 12 BC, although to be honest some of their arguments for this aren’t totally convincing. Vardaman in particular tried to invoke supposed very tiny inscriptions (‘microletters’) which he purportedly discovered in ancient Roman coins in the British Museum - letters that aren’t even there at all.