The Disappearances of the Bodies of Jesus and Other Heroes

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by Neil Godfrey

The disappearance of the body of Jesus from the tomb presents likenesses to certain pagan traditions.

No, those words are not from a mythicist but from a professor of Classics, Arthur Stanley Pease, in an article in the Harvard Studies in Classical Philology, 1942, Vol. 53, pages 1-36 — “Some Aspects of Invisibility“. 1942 may seem like ancient history but the article was referenced more recently in 2010 by Richard C. Miller, an adjunct professor at Chapman University in the Department of Religious Studies, in “Mark’s Empty Tomb and Other Translation Fables in Classical Antiquity” in the Journal of Biblical Literature, Vol. 129, No. 4. More recently still, 2015, Miller has published Resurrection and Reception in Early Christianity which I am looking forward to reading and writing about. (It won’t be for at least some months before I can get to it, unfortunately.) Before I begin on the more recent works, however, I do like to track down their sources and that’s what led me back to 1942. So here we go…..

Noteworthy is the case of Aristeas, a poet and wonder-worker of uncertain date, who, Herodotus tells us, went into a fuller’s shop at Proconnesus on the Propontis and there died. The fuller shut up his shop and went to tell the dead man’s kinsmen, but the report of the death of Aristeas, now noised through the city, was disputed by a man of Cyzicus, who had come from the seaport of Cyzicus and said that he had met Aristeas going toward the town and had spoken with him.

While he so spoke, the kinsmen of the dead man came to the fuller’s shop with all that was needful for the burial, but when the shop was opened no Aristeas was there, either dead or alive.

Seven years later Aristeas appeared at Proconnesus and made that poem which the Greeks later called the Arimaspea, after which he again vanished. (p. 29)

You can read a translation of Herodotus’s account on the Perseus Tufts site.

Pease then refers to a similar story told about Cleomedes by Plutarch in his biography of Romulus. I quote here a translation of Plutarch:

Now this is like the fables which the Greeks tell about Aristeas of Proconnesusand Cleomedes of Astypaleia. For they say that . . . Cleomedes also, who was of gigantic strength and stature, of uncontrolled temper, and like a mad man, is said to have done many deeds of violence, and finally, in a school for boys, he smote with his fist the pillar which supported the roof, broke it in two, and brought down the house. The boys were killed, and Cleomedes, being pursued, took refuge in a great chest, closed the lid down, and held it so fast that many men with their united strength could not pull it up; but when they broke the chest to pieces, the man was not to be found, alive or dead. In their dismay, then, they sent messengers to consult the oracle at Delphi, and the Pythian priestess gave them this answer:—

Last of the heroes he, Cleomedes, Astypalaean.”

Disappearances were not confined to cadavers of heroes. Pease notes the vanishing of the sacred lots belonging to the Temple of Fortuna Primigenia in central Italy.

A somewhat similar curious disappearance of the sortes Praenestinae from the chest in which they were regularly kept when Tiberius attempted to interfere with the cult of their famous temple by removing them to Rome is described by Suetonius.

See paragraph 63 of Suetonius’s Life of Tiberius for the details.

Plutarch, in his catalogue of such cases, relates that the corpse of Alcmene disappeared while being carried forth for burial, and in its place on the bier was found a stone. (p. 30) 

See Plutarch’s Romulus 28:6-8.

Then there was Zeus himself.

In the case of Zeus himself we learn that his tomb was exhibited at Cnossus in Crete — doubtless to the concern and confusion of some worshippers–, though he himself had become a god in heaven.

Cicero, De Natura Deorum, III, 53  and Lactantius, Divine Institutes I. ii. 46 for details.

Then Heracles:

A different type of illustration is afforded by Heracles, whose sufferings and glorification after death have not infrequently been compared to those associated with Jesus. This comparison appears as early as Justin Martyr [see chapter 21 of 1st Apology], in the second century, and most recently by the German philologist Pfister, who suggests that the composer of the Urevangelium had before him a Cynic-Stoic biography of Heracles.

Diodorus [see chapter 38:4-5 of Book 4 of Diodorus] relates that the pyre which Heracles had ascended on Mt. Oeta was lighted by Philoctetes at his command but also by lightning which fell from heaven and wholly consumed it.

According to Servius, Heracles earnestly entreated Philoctetes not to show the remains of his body to anyone, and when the companions came to gather up the bones of the hero and found not a single bone anywhere, they assumed that, in accordance with the words of the oracle, he had passed from among men into the company of the gods.

This is a more rationalistic account than that of Apollodorus, in which, during the burning of the pyre, Heracles is wafted by a cloud to heaven, in a manner which some have thought suggestive of the description in the first chapter of Acts, where Jesus is taken up into heaven and received by a cloud out of the sight of the disciples. (pp. 30-31)


Many readers would know of the story of Romulus’s death and disappearance/translation to heaven as a god so I will quote Pease’s take here:

The deification of Romulus, the founder of so mighty a city, merits especial attention and forms a very typical case. A significant passage in Livy declares:

“The concession is granted to antiquity that by mingling things human with things divine it may ennoble the foundings of cities, and if any people should be allowed to hallow its origins and to trace them back to the gods, such is the military glory of the Roman people that, when it boasts of Mars as its parent and that of its founder, the races of men should allow this claim as willingly as they endure its sovereignty.”

The deification of Romulus appears as early as Ennius, in the second century B.C.; the tradition of his vanishing as early as Cicero. The details of the event vary a good deal; according to some he was presiding over the Senate convened in the precinct of Vulcan; according to others addressing an assembly of the people in the Campus near the Goat’s Marsh. In the latter version the sun failed and a furious storm dispersed the multitude, but not the senators, and after the storm Romulus was not to be found. In what follows, three elements are to be noted, though their sequence may be variously interpreted and disputed:

(1) a story that Romulus had been caught up into heaven;

(2) a conflicting tradition that, during the storm, he had been made away with by the disaffected senators;

(3) a sworn declaration to the people by an intimate friend of Romulus named Proculus Iulius (a descendant of Ascanius) that the deified Romulus, who willed henceforth to be called Quirinus, had appeared to him on the road or in a garden, announced his own divinity, and predicted the future greatness of the city of Rome.

The lack of any Latin shrine of Romulus and the inadequate character of the so-called “grave of Romulus” in the Roman Forum (Varro ap. Porphyr. ad Hor. Epod. 16. 13; Fest. p. 177 M.) are suggested by Pfister (Woch.f. kl. Philol. XXVIII (1911), 85) as reasons for the origin of a legend of his vanishing. (pp. 16-17)

The significance of all the details of these accounts for the story of the disappearance of Jesus from the tomb in the Gospel of Mark — for it is in Mark’s Gospel that the focus is on the vanishing of the body rather than an immediate resurrection appearance — may not be obvious in all details but this question will be addressed in future posts. What is clear is that the story of the disappearance of the body of Jesus along with the implication that this vanishing was evidence of divine honour had ample literary precedent. I liked the observation of Pfister that such stories appeared partly to explain the absence of any tomb or other historical evidence of the mythical hero turned divine.



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100 thoughts on “The Disappearances of the Bodies of Jesus and Other Heroes”

  1. “Seven years later Aristeas appeared at Proconnesus…”

    I don’t know how anyone can doubt the divinity of Aristeas. If one explains this appearance as a hallucination, what about the empty shop? Besides, hallucinations usually occur within days or weeks after the deceased passes, not seven years later. Thus,doubters have only implausible, ad hoc explanations for the ascension of Aristeas. I think the simplest explanation is that God raised Aristeas from the dead.

      1. Yes indeed. The lack of material evidence, a body, a corpus, can only be construed as a Miraculous disappearance. The empty tomb can only be construed as a plentiful of evidence.

        The less there is, the more we should make of it. The louder we should proclaim.


  2. Also see the stories about the death of Apollonius in Philostratus’ Life of Apollonius of Tyana:
    “Others again say that he died in Lindus, where he entered the temple of Athena and disappeared within it.”

    “Others again say that he died in Crete in a much more remarkable manner than the people of Lindus relate. …But about midnight he loosened his bonds, and after calling those who had bound him, in order that they might witness the spectacle, he ran to the doors of the temple, which opened wide to receive him; and when he had passed within, they closed afresh, as they had been shut, and there was heard a chorus of maidens singing from within the temple, and their song was this. “Hasten thou from earth, hasten thou to Heaven, hasten.” In other words: “Do thou go upwards from earth. And even after his death, he continued to preach that the soul is immortal; …”

  3. I am intrigued by reading in this book:

    Analogous to Jesus in the Gospels, his [of Peregrinus Proteus] translation fable underscores the generic, honorific function of the tradition as set in contestation to Roman imperium. While likely abstracted from the overt political designs of the postmortem appearances of Jesus, namely, as they mimicked the Romulean legend, the Proteus tale allows a glance at a related incident, though refracted through the cultural permutations and evolution of second century Athens and with a Cynic philosophical subtext. By tacit associations between the two figures, Lucian’s cynical lens regarding Proteus and the crucified founder of the Christians exposes several of the implied structural underpinnings and conventions of the prior Gospels as read in the broad Hellenistic context…
    (R. C. Miller, Resurrection and Reception, 2015, p. 178)

    The shock of the Gospels must not then have been the presence of this standard literary trope, but the adaptation of such supreme cultural exaltation to an indigent Jewish peasant, an individual otherwise marginal and obscure on the grand stage of classical antiquity.
    (ibid., p. 181, my bold)

    While it’s difficult to see behind Peregrinus Proteus the real founder of a cult or sect like the Christian movement (and I say this even if the Peregrinus character was historical), I would be curious to know if the author of the first Gospel did knew what he was doing, i.e., that his final output, among a pagan public, would have provoked naturally that ”shock”: the intime contradiction between the supreme ”exaltation” and the substantial historical ”obscurity” of the his hero.

    Maybe, what Lucian didn’t like about Peregrinus (beyond if he was real or fictional) was just the striking shock provoked by the deification of these insignificant (and counter-cultural) iconic figures, gurus, avatars, ‘founders’ of sects, etc. Because, so much often, ”shocks” of that kind concealed behind them a radical critique of the existing established order.

    1. From the first few pages I’ve skimmed it promises to be a most fascinating book. I look forward to picking it up and giving it serious attention after I clear aside a number of other priorities first.

  4. Maybe reflecting an early tradition, when Matthew does a typology of Christ’s death he pick’s an example in the Old Testament where no spectacular transformation of the person occurs. The person is just gone for a few days and then returns:

    Matthew 12:38-40 “The Sign of Jonah”

    38 Then some of the Pharisees and teachers of the law said to him, “Teacher, we want to see a sign from you.”

    39 He answered, “A wicked and adulterous generation asks for a sign! But none will be given it except the sign of the prophet Jonah. 40 For as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of a huge fish, so the Son of Man will be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth.

    1. clarification please

      is matthew saying that the pharisees will get to see jc and that is the sign?

      is matthew saying that the pharisees will hear about the sign?

      is matthew saying that jesus will be gone for a few days (not die) and then return?

      1. Robert M. Price in “Explaining The Resurrection Without Recourse To Miracle,” in the anthology “The End Of Christianity (ed John Loftus), ” argues Matthew envisions a scenario where tomb robbers (plundering Joseph of Arimathea’s rich tomb) find a still living bruised and battered Jesus, in the same form of the narrative structure as Chariton’s “Chaereas and Callirhoe,” or Xenophon’s “Ephesian Tale.”

  5. The writings of the classicists are an inexhaustible goldmine for the critique of Christianity. Many very rational classicist knew this quite consciously, of course.

    Too bad most classics departments were closed in the 20th century. But the old articles are still there. And still immensely useful.

    Its no accident that one of the main critics of historicity, Carrier, is a PhD historian specialising in the Greco Roman era.

      1. If only the remaining classics departments weren’t all-but hopelessly outnumbered by seminaries and churches, a million to one.

        For that matter though, even against those odds, our classics author manages to use all that onrushing momentum, to deftly trip his opponent.

        One is reminded of the sly Odysseus. And the Greeks (and Turks) who to this very day, like to pretend to kick someone with one leg, feigning. Before kicking at them with the other.

        1. Well, a thousand to one at least. There are about 200 classics departments in the USA. And probably a half million churches and seminaries. Relative enrollment probably around 10,000 to one.

          Still, just a few rationalists can change things. Even against those odds.

    1. Even the classicist in 1942 acknowledged the risk that some readers would be troubled by the implication of his article and was sure to include in his final paragraph the following:

      Hence, as with other forms of the miraculous, the superficial ascription of more than human powers is no sufficient evidence against an underlying historicity. For example, no one doubts the historic character of Alexander the Great or of the Roman Emperors, though we may fairly doubt particular incidents about them which ancient writers, relying upon popular tradition, may have reported. Finally, may we not modify a well-known aphorism, and safely venture the assertion that the ascription of miraculous powers has generally been the unconscious tribute which inferiority has paid to excellence? 272

      Footnote 272 is an explanation of why he has not included instances of invisible animals and objects in his article.

      1. Even historicism itself was once a radically rational idea. In America in 1942.

        And finally it was the training in the rationality of Socrates, Caesar, Cicero, that became a tribute to especially, Reason itself.

        And Reason in turn? Would carry the Prometian torch the next leg of the relay race. Beyond even the already very minimal Jesus of humanistic theology and historicism. To the rational vision of Mythicism: no Jesus at all. Nothing but myths. And not even a very minimal person behind them. Not in the latest leg of the long and fruitful journey of classic rationality.

  6. I find it interesting that before we have Jesus’ “empty tomb” we first of all have Lazarus removed from HIS.

    The four gospels have varying times before, during and after dawn…but one has Mary Magdalene, distraught, grieving, walking around in the darkest part of pre-dawn…which would have made it easily possible for her to run into Lazarus’ tomb by mistake. It was already empty of Lazarus…had its grave cloths still in it. It was rolling-stone type and the stone had been rolled away from the entrance.

    If we’re even remotely thinking of any Simonian origins…great way to set up the illusion of a resurrection.

    Otherwise Lazarus has no real part in the story.

  7. Hi George,

    Very alert reading and I explain the parallelism in Caesar’s Messiah. Notice that the authors have left the precise details needed to indicate that the tomb of Lazarus was mistaken for Jesus’s. In other words Lazarus’s tomb featured a burial shroud and a soudarion on the ground and had its stone rolled away. Obviously, an alert reader is expected to recognize these details are uncommon and in fact unique

    Moreover, notice that the number and locations (inside or outside the tomb) of the angels is parallel to the number and locations of the disciples who come to the tomb. Someone has shaped the stories of the empty tomb in the four gospels into a logic puzzle showing that Jesus did not rise from the dead and the disciples simply encountered one another.

    Joe Atwill

    1. Of course Paul was a great liar for the cause. We read:

      1 Corinthians 9:19: “For though I am free from all men, I have made myself a servant to all, that I might win the more; 20 and to the Jews I became as a Jew, that I might win Jews; to those who are under the law, as under the law, that I might win those who are under the law; 21 to those who are without law, as without law (not being without law toward God, but under law toward Christ), that I might win those who are without law; 22 to the weak I became as weak, that I might win the weak. I have become all things to all men, that I might by all means save some. 23 Now this I do for the gospel’s sake, that I may be partaker of it with you.”

      And, to solidify his position, Paul told the outrageous lie about the risen Jesus that: “After that He appeared to more than five hundred brethren at one time (1 Cor 15:6),” as if that many people hallucinated Jesus at the same time!

      And like a true liar, Paul had to reassure his listeners that he was not lying:

      “I am telling the truth in Christ, I am not lying, my conscience testifies with me in the Holy Spirit, that I have great sorrow and unceasing grief in my heart.… (Rom 9:1).”

      “I assure you before God that what I am writing you is no lie. (Gal 1:20).”

      As Shakespeare wrote, methinks he doth protest too much!

      To understand Paul as a liar, we need to understand that lying was permitted in the Hebrew tradition if it was done in the name of God. Consider this comparison about the permission of lying in the bible: http://www.skepticsannotatedbible.com/contra/lie.html

            1. Most definitely. One way or the other, he was deceiving people.

              However, that’s the thesis of the Ebionites. Refer to Clementines where they conflate Paul with Simon Magus.

              OR as Mark, whom the Gnostics and Marcionites thought Paul to be. it was curious how the Marcionites/Markan Christians were to deny even under oath that Paul was really Mark.

              Then there’s another way I looked at it this morning. If the earliest ever Gospel (written by Mark, with letters ALSO by Mark, 4, 7 or 10 core ones) ONLY had ONE real character in the entire story.

              Mark himself, as an allegory for his ascension as Daniel 9:26 Messiah.

              I came to that conclusion using Gospel of the Hebrews as a referent…if the Risen Lord IS Mark (and also JOHN, sone of Zebedee), our youth in the Linen Cloth…then the JAMES he sits down to eat with must be James ALSO son of Zebedee.

              Except…if we ultimately take this Mark/John (or John Mark if you will) back to Herod Agrippa, we have TWO problems. One involves Josephus telling us TWO Herod Agrippas to the Jewish understanding’s ONE. One problem would see James really being a HERODIAN. The OTHER problem, if Herod Agrippa the one who closed out the office of King (and was no more) had NO brothers…and only sisters…then James himself would have to be a fiction.

              One of those two scenarios is easier to reconcile than the other…but still leaves us with a first-ever-gospel writer who was writing pure fiction and writing himself into the story.

              The other, that James too was Herodian? Well, then Mark REALLY told a fib.

              And that brings us back to Joe’s thesis…that the Flavians, Alexanders and remaining Herodians were taking the p*** out of everyone.

              1. In real terms, yeah, Paul (Mark) lied…but I think it fair that just about EVERYONE after him did TOO.

                Each adding new twists to the story and creating MORE fiction ad infinitum.

                NOBODY after a certain point wanting to admit that Jesus may really have just been a personified concept or a fiction/allegory.

                And not many if any even remotely concerned about ACCURACY.

                But even funnier is seeing people study this as if it were real history.

                It’s like watching comic fans debate about fictional universes/multiverses.

  8. George, Joseph — you have proposed hypotheses to explain certain data in the gospels. For a scholarly argument to follow in support of a hypothesis one normally:

    1. investigates and addresses alternative explanations for the data that have already been published (e.g. other explanations for the Lazarus story; other explanations for the various numbers of angels and visitors to the tomb across the various gospels, etc.) — This discussion normally points to the weaknesses in prior arguments and shows that the new hypothesis is superior as an explanation.

    2. Set out what one’s hypothesis would lead us to expect to find in the wider data at hand, and then tests these expectations. So what else would we expect to find in the gospels on the assumption that the author was dropping clues that the tomb was mistaken or was writing in concert with other evangelists to create a patten of mirrors, etc? Are these expectations or predictions met?

    These steps in an argument are found in scholarly works in any field (not just biblical studies). Unfortunately there are many apologists among biblical scholars who do not follow these normative steps in scholarly/scientific research but it is because they do not follow these steps that their work is relegated to apologetics by the more critical scholars.

    Without the foregoing steps all we are left with is speculation, opinion, or apologetics/dogmatics.

    1. Hi Neil,

      Your first request would be reasonable if there were only a few published hypotheses for the contradictions between the empty tomb stories or if one that had become a standard. In fact hundreds have been published but none has become widely accepted.

      Please cite one that you see as having strong explanatory power and I will be happy to explain why it has not become the standard of NT scholarship and why my interpretation is superior.

      Your second request is quite reasonable. To posit that the four empty tomb stories are interactive it is first necessary to demonstrate that this technique is in use within the Gospels in general; or as you wrote: “in the wider data at hand”. As you correctly suggested, an interpretation that the four empty tombs stories were created as the only example of interactive literature within the Gospels would have little analytic value. It is just the opposite, an interactive genre must first be shown to be widely in use within the Gospels to make the perspective my interpretation of the empty tomb stories requires even coherent.

      So let me demonstrate the basic interactive nature of the Gospels, which I maintain were written as a typological prophecy of Josephus’s history of the Flavian campaign. As you know I offered to go through all of parallels that the authors of the Gospels mapped onto Josephus’s history on this site. To produce the best criticism the parallels must be considered as a collection because only as a group is the strongest evidence visible; which is the fact that the parallels occur within the same sequence. You declined, but I am hoping this exchange will change your mind.

      I will only give three examples. I choose these not because they are the strongest but because I hope to meet the requirement you suggested earlier of pointing out “weaknesses in prior arguments and shows that the new hypothesis is superior as an explanation.”

      These are the three parallels that Carrier, in his criticism of my theory, contrasted his own explanation to mine.

      Please note my claim below concerning the ‘three crucified, one survives’ parallel: “The fact that the story that is the closest parallel to the Gospels crucifixion story in literature occurs at exactly the correct place in Josephus’s narrative cannot be accidental. In other words, my thesis is proven and the story of Jesus was fiction created to prefigure Titus, QED.” In other words, the parallel in and of itself demonstrates the Gospels were designed as interactive literature and, thus, this perspective is a coherent framework for analyzing the four empty tomb stories.

      Moreover, the parallel occurs within a sequence. In order to claim typological mapping is occurring I must find every example within a precise and small area of text. This is the opposite of the bizarre charge leveled against my thesis of ‘parallelomania’.

      The following is taken from my response to Carrier.

      Carrier and I also discussed the ‘human Passover lamb’ parallel. Carrier is not only a historian but also a literary analyst and actually came up with his own parallel to Josephus’ ‘Cannibal Mary’ passage, which he claimed was an improvement over mine. To his credit, Carrier was able to recognize that Mary’s cannibalized son in Josephus was, like Jesus in the Gospels, a human Passover lamb. This was the end of his clear mindedness because, incredibly, he did not see this as a meaningful connection.
      He wrote:
      “Even His Only Good Example Proves How Wrong He Is: The only good example Atwill sent me is his analysis of JW 6.201ff. Unfortunately, it is not a good example of his thesis, since it does not involve Jesus being mapped onto Titus (as Atwill’s thesis proposes) and the only distinct connection this story has with Jesus is the name “Mary” as the mother of an eaten child, and its connection to Passover.
      “But “Mary” unfortunately was one of the most common Jewish female names (being, as it was, the name of the sister of Moses…one in four Jewish women had the name…you heard that right…one in four), and Passover is a ubiquitous theme throughout Jewish literature. So to have those two items alone as the link does not bode well.,,,by inverting the concept of the Passover in order to represent the inversion of Jewish society among those who remained rebels against Rome.
      “What Josephus seems to have in mind is to communicate that Jewish society had been turned upside down by rebellion, and he does this by turning the Passover upside down. Hence we have here a Jew’s own poetic inversion of the Passover to make a contextual point about the state of society during the siege of Jerusalem.”
      Carrier then made a statement revealing only a very limited capacity to detect symbolism.
      He wrote:
      “Had the baby been called Jesus, then Atwill might have had something. Or if the Gospels identified the mother of Jesus as “Mary the daughter of Eleazar” or “from the town of Bethezob,” as the Mary in Josephus is. Or had any Gospel identified any other Mary as being the actual daughter of Lazarus (“Eleazar”), instead of his sister, as only one Gospel actually does (Jn. 11:2). But alas, no such connections are there.”
      Note that Carrier gives no evidence to support the methodology he uses below but simply sets up completely arbitrary standards to connect Josephus to the Bible. His standards permit him to range over the entire Old Testament searching for possible connections and parallels. I would ask the reader to compare his approach to my thesis that the authors of the Gospels were writing prefiguration typology linked to Josephus in sequence. My thesis requires that the connections must occur within small and precise areas of text. He continues:
      “If the two authors (Josephus and “John”) were contriving parallels to make a joke or sell any deliberate point, they would have gotten their parallels straight, or at least done a much better job of it. For example, not only must we explain how the family relationship changed, and why Josephus meant to allude to Mary the mother of Jesus yet whoever wrote “John” (also Josephus?) got it wrong and made the corresponding Mary a different Mary not related to Jesus, but also why the names (Lazarus and Eleazar) aren’t even spelled the same, which usually indicates a lack of awareness of one writer by the other, not collusion.
      “That the Passover is being turned upside down is given by the fact that those who ate the Passover were specifically avoiding the slaying of their own sons, and sacrifices like this were meant to replace a human (like Isaac) with an animal (Lamb), whereas in this story an animal is replaced with a human, and not just any human, but the very son whose death was supposed to be averted by the Passover.”
      Carrier then produced his basis for Josephus’s human Passover Lamb; a passage from the OT story in Numbers 12. He wrote:
      “Josephus clearly chose the name Mary because this is the name of the sister of Moses, the only prominent woman in the Exodus (hence Passover) narrative, especially given the meaning of her name, as Atwill himself notes: “rebellion.” But this “Mary” (the sister of Moses) is “rebellious” due to the OT legend of Num. 12, not from anything in the NT–where the mother of Jesus is never portrayed as rebellious–whereas the OT Mary is rebellious, and was punished for it: she is the woman whom Aaron begged “Let her not be as one dead, of whom the flesh is half consumed when he cometh out of his mother’s womb” (Num. 12:12).
      “A rebellious Mary from the days of the Passover, associated with a half-consumed baby. Hmmmm. Might that sound like the source of Josephus’ story to you?”
      Carrier’s future as a literary analyst is perhaps even dimmer than his future as Gadara’s official historian.
      His denouncement that “[Atwill] just cherry picks and interprets anything to fit, any way he wants” describes his methodology, not mine. As my thesis posits more than just parallels, but a sequence of parallels between two narratives I must follow very strict rules about where to find each parallel, and always within a narrow block of text. Within a sequence I need to not only find a parallel to the Gospels’ ‘human Passover lamb’ in the correct spot in the narration, but I must also find the next parallel using only the text that immediately follows. I cannot cherry pick, as Carrier does, any similarity that might exist within the whole Bible.
      Forever a source of irony, Carrier falsely accuses me of the sins he repeatedly commits.
      Furthermore, he fails to understand how the uniqueness of a concept has a special power in this type of literary analysis. The ‘human Passover lamb’ metaphor used in both Mary’s child in Josephus and Mary’s child in the Gospels is so rare that these are the only two examples in all of literature. To overlook such a unique connection would be impossible for most thinking humans and takes a special kind of perverse persistence that Carrier has a special talent for.
      His forced version of the ‘human Passover lamb’ parallel from Numbers 12 is a case in point. Carrier claimed that someone merely from “the days of the Passover” is a parallel for something as unique as a ‘human Passover lamb.’ In fact, the OT character Miriam is not mentioned during any of the descriptions of the Passover in Exodus and she makes no statement about it. Miriam is no more “associated” to the Passover than any other unnamed Israelite or Egyptian from the story of Exodus. Moreover, the baby suggested to be eaten away by disease in Numbers 12 is not related to either cannibalism or to the Passover in any way and its only ‘connection’ is Carrier’s spurious “association” that Miriam was alive during the Passover.
      We can again apply Carrier’s slander against me as a correct description of his scholarship:
      “And once you have to start changing the text all over the place to get what you want, on the basis of no evidence whatever, you are in crank land.”
      In Caesar’s Messiah I wrote the following in regards to the relationship between the two ‘human Passover lambs’:
      “However, Josephus’s Cannibal Mary passage has a number of concepts and names that are truly parallel to those associated with the New Testament’s symbolic Passover lamb. These are a mother named Mary; a son of Mary; hyssop; one of the instructions regarding the preparation of the Passover lamb – that it be roasted; a son who is a sacrifice; cannibalism; a son who is to become a “myth to the world”; an individual named Lazarus (Eleazar); and Jerusalem as the location of the incident. Moreover, the child in Josephus is a human Passover lamb parallel to the one in the Gospels. It is unlikely that there is another passage in all of literature that contains, by chance, as many as half the number of parallels with a concept as singular a human Passover lamb.”
      But Carrier saw his parallel as superior: He wrote:
      “Atwill tries to find many other parallels between this “myth” and the Gospels, but they all suffer from the same distorted interpretations as the others, and amount to the same tactics of forcing a fit employed by defenders of biblical literalism. In contrast, the links between the context of this myth in Josephus and the OT are much clearer and more obvious, and require no knowledge of Jesus or Christianity, much less imply any comment on them.”
      And his coup de grâce: “There is no connection to Jesus here.”
      Of course, no sensible person can claim that there is “no connection” between humans who are turned into Passover lambs and, in fact, I can demonstrate that they were deliberately linked. As mentioned above, my theory maintains that a sequence of deliberate parallels exists between two narratives. In this case this means that, if I’m correct, the likelihood that the Josephus’ Cannibal Mary story is connected to Jesus Christ is fortified if the next story in Josephus’ narrative is also parallel to what comes next in the Gospel story. In this case, after the Last Supper, which contains the ‘human Passover lamb’ theme, we of course have the story of Jesus’s crucifixion.
      So the question becomes: Is there a parallel to the Gospels’ crucifixion story in Josephus that follows his recording of a human Passover lamb?
      There is indeed. This crucifixion tale below and its location in Josephus’s narrative of the war are the ‘gold seal’ of proof that the Jesus/Titus typological mapping was deliberate.
      “Moreover, when the city Jerusalem was taken by force…I was sent by Titus Caesar…to a certain village called Thecoa, in order to know whether it were a place fit for a camp; as I came back, I saw many captives crucified, and remembered three of them as my former acquaintance. I was very sorry at this in my mind, and went with tears in my eyes to Titus, and told him of them; so he immediately commanded them to be taken down, and to have the greatest care taken of them, in order to their recovery; yet two of them died under the physician’s hands, while the third recovered.” (Josephus, Life, 75, 417)
      The fact that the story that is the closest parallel to the Gospels crucifixion story in literature occurs at exactly the correct place in Josephus’s narrative cannot be accidental. In other words, my thesis is proven and the story of Jesus was fiction created to prefigure Titus, QED.
      I sent the parallel to Carrier during our email discussion. I wrote:
      “The linkage to Jesus’s crucifixion occurs in Josephus, Life, 75. The typology showing that the individual who survives is a messiah is complex and I will only mention here that it exists, but I would note that ‘Joseph of Arimathea’ is an obvious pun upon Joseph bar Mathias.”
      Carrier, amusingly, first insisted that typological parallels must be verbatim:
      “Again, why not simply say Barmathias? Why disguise the connection by spelling both names differently? The Gospels also make clear it is a place, not a person ([using the preposition] “from” Arimathaia). And Josephus’s Life says “Matthias” while the Gospels all say -mathaia, yet an intended parallel would employ the same spelling, don’t you think?”
      But then, once again, he violated his own absurd principles, and posited a convoluted, and much weaker, replacement: He wrote:
      “It is actually a more obvious pun on what the word Arimathea actually means: ‘Best Doctrinetown.’ ”
      In a private correspondence with Peter Kirby, Carrier explained his speculation: “Is the word a pun on ‘best disciple,’ ari[stos] mathe[tes]? Matheia means ‘disciple town’ in Greek; Ari- is a common prefix for superiority.” (link)
      Notice again how slack Carrier’s methods are compared to mine. Like his alternative parallel to the ‘Cannibal Mary’ story where he searched the entire Old Testament for a link, here he scours the entire Greek language for a connection. My thesis, on the hand, cannot venture out of the Jesus/Titus sequence and am therefore confined to precise areas of text to find connections, a vastly more disciplined approach.
      Notice that my parallel actually uses only the last name of someone who took a person down from a cross that survived. Carrier’s “Best Doctrinetown” had the entire Greek language to look for the “intended parallel.”
      Carrier’s unconvincing ‘Arimathea’ connection actually provides further evidence for my thesis. With the entire Greek language at his disposal Carrier could only generate a very tenuous link to the Gospels. In contrast my methodology, which requires using only a tiny block of text, provided a much more concrete basis for the name Joseph of ‘Arimathea’. The overall pattern of parallels in the two stories shows that the name Joseph of Arimathea was a typological prefiguration of the last name of the ‘Joseph bar Mathias’, the individual who begged the Roman commander to take someone down from the cross who survived during the Jewish war.

      Note that my explanation gives an obvious basis for the name ‘Joseph’, whereas Carrier’s does not even rise to the level of ‘parallelomania’ in that he has no explanation.

      It is telling that the author of the Gospel of Barnabas, the mysterious apocryphal Gospel from the 16th century, did not share Carrier’s spurious parallel. That author instead recorded a connection to Josephus.
      He wrote: “but by means of Nicodemus and Joseph of Abarimathia; they obtained from the governor the body of Judas to bury it. Whereupon, they took him down from the cross with such weeping as assuredly no one would believe, and buried him in the new sepulcher of Joseph;” Gospel of Barnabas, chapter 217
      Finally, Carrier and I discussed the parallel that concludes the Gospels and the Jewish War which I call ‘Simon condemned, John spared’ at the end email exchange. I wrote:
      “I am certain if you spend a just few minutes comparing the fates of the ‘two sets of leaders of messianic movements in Judea in the second half of the first century engaged in missionary activity’ I am sure you will come to same conclusion I did. Jesus’s prophecy foresees the rebel leaders’ fate.”
      Below is the entire passage from the Book of John. Notice how the author of John goes to great lengths to avoid calling the Apostles by their real names, Simon and John.
      “Truly, truly, I say to you, when you were young, you girded yourself and walked where you would; but when you are old, you will stretch out your hands, and another will gird you and carry you where you do not wish to go.
      (This he said to show by what death he was to glorify God.) And after this he said to him, “Follow me.”
      Peter turned and saw following them the disciple whom Jesus loved, who had lain close to his breast at the supper and had said, “Lord, who is it that is going to betray you?”
      When Peter saw him, he said to Jesus, “Lord, what about this man?”
      Jesus said to him, “If it is my will that he remain until I come, what is that to you? Follow me!”
      The saying spread abroad among the brethren that this disciple was not to die; yet Jesus did not say to him that he was not to die, but, “If it is my will that he remain until I come, what is that to you?”
      This is the disciple who is bearing witness to these things, and who has written these things; and we know that his testimony is true.” (John 21:18–24)
      In Caesar’s Messiah I wrote:
      This passage, which is the conclusion to Jesus’ ministry, is exactly parallel to Titus’ judgments concerning the rebel leaders Simon and John at the conclusion of his campaign through Judea. Thus, at the conclusion of the Gospel above, Jesus tells Simon “when you are old, you will stretch out your hands, and another will gird you and carry you where you do not wish to go.” Jesus tells Simon to “follow me” and that his death will “glorify God.” However, Jesus also states that it is his will that John is to “remain.”
      At the conclusion of his campaign through Judea, Titus, after capturing “Simon,” girds him in “bonds” and sends him “where you do not wish to go,” this being Rome. During the parade of conquest at Rome, Simon follows, that is, is “led” to a “death, to glorify God,” the god “glorified” being Titus’ father, the diuus Vespasian. However, it is Titus’ will to spare the other leader of the rebellion, John.
      Notice that in the following passage, Josephus records Simon’s fate before John’s, just as it occurs in John 21. A seemingly innocuous detail but one that I will show has great significance.
      Simon…was forced to surrender himself, as we shall relate hereafter; so he was reserved for the triumph, and to be then slain; as was John condemned to perpetual imprisonment.
      Josephus also records that Jesus’ vision of Simon “following” also comes to pass for the rebel leader Simon.
      Simon…had then been led in this triumph among the captives; a rope had also been put upon his head, and he had been drawn into a proper place in the forum.
      In the passage from the Gospel of John above, notice that the author does not call the Apostle John by his name but rather as “the disciple whom Jesus loved,” and as the individual who had said at the Last Supper, “Lord, who is it that is going to betray you?” Later in the chapter the author identifies this disciple with yet another epithet when he states, “This is the disciple who testifies of these things, and wrote these things”—even here not referring to John by name but requiring the reader to determine it by knowing the name of the author of the Gospel. The author’s use of epithets here, instead of simply referring to the disciple as “John,” seems clearly an attempt to keep the parallel conclusion of Jesus’ and Titus’ “ministries” from being too easily seen.80 The author also has Jesus call Simon by his nickname, “Peter,” for the same reason.
      The same technique is used throughout the New Testament and Wars of the Jews. To learn the name of an unnamed character, the reader must be able to recall details from another, related passage. In effect, the New Testament is designed as a sort of intelligence test, whose true meaning can be understood only by those possessing sufficient memory, logic, and irreverent humor.
      For clarification, I present the following list showing the parallels between the ends of Jesus’ ministry and Titus’ campaign:
      1) Characters are named Simon and John
      2) Both sets of characters are judged
      3) Both sides of the parallel occur at the conclusion of a “campaign”
      4) Jesus predicts and Titus fulfills Simon going to a martyr’s death after being placed in bonds and taken someplace he does not wish to go
      5) In each, John is spared
      * * *
      Carrier did not see any parallelism here, however. He was not even able to see the fact that name of the “beloved disciple” was John.
      He wrote:
      “I don’t follow you. There is no one named “John” in John 21, except Simon’s father, and that name is only there as a patronymic (it’s Simon’s last name, e.g. Simon Johnson). The “beloved disciple” is never named, but is most probably not someone named John, but Lazarus”
      Actually, the author did identify the “beloved disciple” as someone named John. It is obvious to anyone that reads the last verse of the passage in a straightforward manner.
      “This is the disciple who is bearing witness to these things, and who has written these things; and we know that his testimony is true.” (John 21:24)

      I am curious as to you and your readers’ opinion concerning the relative strength of my interpretations versus Carrier’s.

      If you accept my contention that the three sequential parallels demonstrate a deliberate interactive genre within the Gospels, I will move on to explain the interaction between the tomb stories. If not, I will respond to your criticism.


      1. I’m afraid you have misread or misunderstood the second and most fundamental principle of scientific/scholarly research, Joe. You have certainly failed to address the second point I cited:

        2. Set out what one’s hypothesis would lead us to expect to find in the wider data at hand, and then tests these expectations. So what else would we expect to find in the gospels on the assumption that the author was dropping clues that the tomb was mistaken or was writing in concert with other evangelists to create a patten of mirrors, etc? Are these expectations or predictions met?

        All you have done is copy and paste another interpretation and claimed it is superior to other interpretations because it addresses more details than they do.

        The question that needs to be asked is what would your thesis lead us to expect. If the gospels were written in the way you describe then what would we expect to find elsewhere in their narratives and relationships. It’s about making predictions and seeing if they are found.

        As for the first point — I was referring to the standard theological and literary-development explanations for the differences and relationships among the gospel accounts.

      2. I’d like to corroborate Joe somewhat. Price is apparently reading the NT as an allegory of the Jewish wars. As narrated in part by Josephus?

        In my own reading too, the story of Jesus is largely borrowed from the story in Josephus, of the Lord and king of the Jews, Herod. And his unjustly-killed sons by his wife Mariamne or Mary. Like Jesus, they are accused of trying to usurp their father, and so are executed.

          1. Nowhere. My mistake. He reviews the idea, and mostly dislikes it.

            But I think the thesis has merit, if viewed not as a conscious conspiracy by Romans, to topspin history and give us a servant Jewish population. (A’s thesis?) But as a similar but less conscious or conspiratorial collaborationism between Hellenistic Jews and Greco-Romans, to come to terms.

              1. There’s a surprisingly convincing finding that the 2008 securities crash, with Goldman Sachs at the helm, took place on a Jewish holiday having to do with paying debts or some such.

      3. An alternate and simpler explanation of the “cannibal Mary” story (Jewish War (VI,193)), that Mr Atwill refers to above. It is punning and satire ridiculing the christian rite of substitutional anthrophagy. “Cannibal Mary” is an ironic conflation of the Christ birth myth, the last supper, and Jesus’ self sacrifice, and blood thirsty Zealots who turn out to be a bunch of rather squeamish chaps.
        No deep hidden puzzles spread across several texts, no deep symbolism linked to cryptic Flavian self romotion, just a simple jest, and maybe a vague reference to the baddest baby eater of all, Kronos, the daddy of all the gods.
        In the tale of Cannibal Mary is just a joke.

        1. John,


          No disrespect John but I can demonstrate you are incorrect. If you accept that the passage creates a human Passover lamb then this confirms the accuracy of my theory as this concept is virtually singular in literature and could not exist accidently at the exact point in Josephus’s narration that human Passover lamb occurs in the Gospels. To confirm typological mapping all that is needed is that at the point in Josephus’s narrative between the encircling of Jerusalem and ‘three crucified, one survives’ parallel there is a human Passover lamb. There is so QED.

          If you wish to see just how far the linguistic parallels work between the human Passover lambs see Honora Chapman’s paper ‘A Myth for the World’.

          Chapman does a good job decoding the Greek puns and wordplay on the Passover sacrifice but misses the obvious – as everyone else did.

          Josephus’ human Passover lamb is created with the same technique used in the Gospels. Josephus combes one of the instructions for preparing a Passover lamb – that it should be roasted – with the concept of hyssop – the child is said to be from the ‘house of hyssop. The child is also flatly described a sacrifice. A roasted sacrifice from the house of hyssop is a Passover lamb. In the Gospels Jesus is touched with hyssop and his bones are not broken.


    2. “For a scholarly argument to follow in support of a hypothesis one normally:

      1. investigates and addresses alternative explanations for the data that have already been published (e.g. other explanations for the Lazarus story; other explanations for the various numbers of angels and visitors to the tomb across the various gospels, etc.) — This discussion normally points to the weaknesses in prior arguments and shows that the new hypothesis is superior as an explanation.

      2. Set out what one’s hypothesis would lead us to expect to find in the wider data at hand, and then tests these expectations. So what else would we expect to find in the gospels on the assumption that the author was dropping clues that the tomb was mistaken or was writing in concert with other evangelists to create a patten of mirrors, etc? Are these expectations or predictions met?

      These steps in an argument are found in scholarly works in any field (not just biblical studies). Unfortunately there are many apologists among biblical scholars who do not follow these normative steps in scholarly/scientific research but it is because they do not follow these steps that their work is relegated to apologetics by the more critical scholars.

      Without the foregoing steps all we are left with is speculation, opinion, or apologetics/dogmatics.”

      Neil, your proposed approach seems dogmatic itself in that it (1) lends too much power to the established “scholarly” consensus (who needs “peer review” if you won’t review something that isn’t already “peer-reviewed”?) and (2) places the onus entirely on the author of a thesis when, as a listener/reader, you have (or ought to have) the ability to test the thesis on its own merits based on what you already know (or think you know). If a thesis is complete and supported by (or at least fully consistent with) all the evidence in a logical way, you can’t dismiss the thesis as mere speculation or opinion because you are waiting for somebody to compare and contrast that thesis to established consensus and argue why it is superior to the prior theses of “scholars.” You can argue that the presentation of the thesis is not “scholarly,” but the fact that an otherwise valid thesis is not presented in a “scholarly” way does not render the thesis invalid or transform it inot mere “speculation, opinion or apologetics/dogmatics.”

      NOTE: I’m not addressing Joe’s thesis here.

      1. Some of the possible portraits of the historical Jesus include that of Jesus as an apocalyptic prophet, charismatic healer, Cynic philosopher, Jewish Messiah, prophet of social change, historicized myth, and result of conspiracy. There is little scholarly agreement on a single portrait, or the methods needed to construct it. As long as an individual portrait explains the evidence and explains away any apparently recalcitrant evidence, it is just as valid and worthy of consideration as any other portrait.

        1. Ehrman said on his blog “Most readers of the Gospels never realize how amazingly complex they are in their literary structures and how their authors have composed little masterpieces that require extraordinarily careful reading.” The more we realize the gospels are elaborately constructed literary masterpieces, the less likely it is that we can see behind the literary structures and themes to the historical Jesus and his illiterate followers (if indeed there were any).

      2. Hi Scot,

        Neil is trying to confuse science or scholarship that is based in empiricism or has a widely held and widely vetted standard with the madhouse of conjecture that has sprung from he contradictions between the tomb stories.

        This is why when I asked for an example of scholarship that could be seen as a standard he could not provide one. There isn’t any. His criticism of my examples is simply a form of ad hominem.


        1. I apologize if I was stooping to ad hominem, Joe. I did not think I was. (But I can’t deny the possibility that I might deep down have partly responded to your own nasty attacks against me in the past.) I did not respond to your request for an example because your very next sentence made it clear what your response would be before I started. I decided to save time and leave you with the conclusion without my having to bother with my part of the conversation.

        2. Joe,

          I don’t think that is what Neil was trying to do. I think/hope he was just frustrated with you. I found his comment out of character and inconsistent with the broader body of his work, which is why I tried to call him on it.

          By the way, I actually do think you could greatly benefit your position by trying to be a bit more “scholarly,” by which I mean you need to unbundle your theory into its many constituent hypotheses and recognize which are supported by facts/evidence and which are not. Then, you should abandon the hypotheses that are not supported by facts because they undermine everything else. When you get done doing that, I think it will be easier for the Carriers, Prices and Godfreys of the world to engage with you, but until you do that there won’t be a basis for engagement because the invalid hypotheses eclipse the valid.

          1. It’s humorous that Price in his review accuses Atwill of “Parallelomania,” since no one has been accused of this more than Price by mainstream scholarship.

      3. Perhaps it would help, Scot, if you could provide examples to illustrate why the points in my comment are misguided and examples of the alternative.

        1. Neil,

          You are an adult. You can choose to apply whatever criteria you want to which theories you will entertain and which you will not. Unlike you, I can’t bring myself to insist that thesis be presented in a “scholarly” way before I will consider it. If a thesis is logical on its face and fully accounts for all the facts I know, it is worth considering and testing further.

          The fact is, many biblical “scholars” are just apologists wearing academic clothing, and the fact that they dress their apologetics up as scholarly research does not transform their apologetics into something else. The touchstone of a valid hypothesis cannot be who presents it or how it is presented but must be whether it logically explains the evidence available to us.

          Of course, the fact that a thesis is valid does not make it true, just logical.

          1. Scot, I was simply asking for an example to help me grasp what you seemed to be objecting to in my comment and what you were proposing as a better approach — because I was getting a bit lost with the general statements of principle that in my mind carry a range of different interpretations.

            Your stated objections read a lot into my own points that go well beyond anything I wrote. You introduce peer review, “even considering!” an alternative explanation, apologetics …… — I don’t know why you brought such “objections” into the discussion.

            Many/most new explanations will at least be rational and even comprehensive but it is the testing of them and comparing them with existing explanations that will decide whether they stand. Tests must be specific enough to demonstrate one explanation works where others fail.

            I assumed this was all uncontroversial.

            1. Neil,

              Yes, that is uncontroversial. My concern was that your statements implied an unwillingness to consider/test a thesis on your own. This shouldn’t be a game of “I am thinking of a rock.” Not everybody with a valid thesis has the vocabulary or experience to tease it out properly. Those of us who do have a responsibility to explain and translate.

              1. My concern was that your statements implied an unwillingness to consider/test a thesis on your own.

                I’ve no idea what I said that gave you an idea like that. I was spelling out how to test new ideas.

                Those of us who do have a responsibility to explain and translate.

                And that’s exactly what I was asking you to do but you helpfully directed me to grow up instead.

              2. I hope everybody shakes hands on this and agrees to politely disagree. We’ve got a good crowd here, and I’d hate to lose anyone in a too acrimonious dispute.

                Maybe my own position on Atwell’s book offers a compromise. In this kind of writing, an academic would typically characterize work like Joe’s as say say. “imaginative” and” provocative.” Words which allow that not every detail is firmly proven. But allowing that many imaginative insights might be contained within it. To be subsequently subjected to closer inspection, one by one.

                Such books are useful. And often capture the attention of the wider audience. Though Neil is right to call Joe on some notions. And to ask for further proofs.

              3. Happy Halloween by the way. Its been a good time to talk about dead bodies rising from the grave. It’s a funny subject. One that I suspect Joe presents a bit tongue in cheek at times.

  9. I look at it this way, Neil…I’m now at the point where I might as well compare Jesus to Superman…BOTH require a “suspension of DISbelief.” In real terms, NO ONE can fly unaided or walk on water. It’s illusion.

    So now I look to HOW the illusion was carried out. But the illusion of a resurrection begins with having an empty tomb all ready.

    Joe, I’ve read your theory and I find some parts of it workable. There is something definitely to the idea of a distraught woman wandering around in pitch-black, pre-dawn trying to find a tomb. Even if there were no other logic puzzle…that alone combined with Lazarus’ tomb ALREADY having been emptied prior to the “resurrection” would be standing out as anomalous enough to question.

    Neil, if we take the idea of a Simonian origin of Christianity at all..we would have to factor in the illusion factor. After all..even a Magus is just a master of illusion and sleight of hand. You then just have to look for the method of carrying out the illusion.

    Of course, as an ALLEGORY or a FICTION…all this is moot, because in a fiction, a writer can invent whatever he wants. And there’s still the possibility this was ALL an ALLEGORY right from day one.

    It’s different from scholastic approaches, I’ll agree, Neil…I prefer to just plain puzzle-solve and toss around things until the evidence falls where it lies.

    Where as fictive allegory or real-world illusion…we both know the idea of a tomb EMPTY of a body just doesn’t fit reality.

    Therefore the tomb everyone went to had to have been empty to begin with…and empty enough that the youth in the linen cloth could go sit there for a while.

    The tomb wasn’t quite empty. The shorter ending for Mark has that youth in the linen cloth there.

    Does it dawn on anyone the implication of the whole Christian thing starting from a SIMON original?

    That we’ve actually accidentally been believing in what was really a Simon Magus story the whole time?

    1. There’s a simple way to just somersault over the whole resurrection controversy. By noting that even the resurrected Jesus lasted only 40 days. And then disappeared.

      Why wouldn’t a resurrected Jesus hang around, to direct the kingdom in person? Unless he didn’t really resurrect.

      Sir Fraser and others hinted that it was all borrowed from myths of vegetation dying in the winter, and returning to the surface in the spring.

      1. By the way, it’s been noted that the testimony of women was considered unreliable, inadmissible, in paternalistic Judaism. So women finding an empty tomb, was code for an unreliable rumor, or ancient confusion.

        Attempts to metaphoricalize the resurrection – as say, acquiring a new, reviving state of mind or spirit – also tacitly admit that physical resurrection is implausible.

        So finally, the Bible is somewhat critical of some of its own accounts.

        1. One curious difference between Old and New Testaments on miracles. In the Exodus, they were done for the People’s SURVIVAL…not for “impressing the rubes.”

          There’s a key point in the story of Elijah on that straight after his beating the 400 priest of Baal and that point being driven home to Elijah.

          In the New Testament, I don’t think there was any real element of ‘survival’ in Jesus or even the disciples’ miracles. They all pretty much come across as “impressing the rubes.”

          So…whether we call him “Jesus” or “Simon Magus”…he was “impressing the rubes.”

          Empty tomb as illusion.

          1. Or a moment of biblical self criticism? Empty tomb means no evidence, no body.

            Or just the disciples, youths, looking incomprehensibly at each other. And their own confusions. Mistaking each other for angels. And for God.

      2. This is why the earlier GNOSTIC versions of Christianity had a God/Angel version of Jesus. Jesus wasn’t necessary to the Kingdom here on earth.

        Why the Gnostic Jesus never claimed to be the/a Messiah. Why there’s record of some very early Christianities who believed in the movement of souls from one person to another (can’t remember the actual word for that just at this instant).

        Of course, if he was part of announcing an actual king…

        So perhaps it’s that neanikos, the youth in the linen cloth we should be looking at as the actual King/Messiah. And that youth in the linen cloth turns up in the darndest of places…like the Gospel of the Hebrews. There’s a key known fragment of that recorded where the “resurrected Lord” sat down to eat and drink with James…but just before he does…he hands someone else his…LINEN CLOTH.

        Makes you wish a lot more of the Gospel of the Hebrews had survived to this time.

  10. Ehrman argues in “How Jesus Became God” that Paul thought of Jesus as a pre-existent divine angel. But how does Ehrman reconcile this with the point Paul makes that he met Jesus’ brother James? Maybe if he was pressed on it, Ehrman would have to consider the “James passage” in Paul as an interpolation?

    1. As Parvus points out, Paul does not specify that he met Jesus’ brother. He describes James as the brother of the Lord (τὸν ἀδελφὸν τοῦ κυρίου). Even if “brother” is to be taken literally as a blood relative, Parvus speculates that perhaps it means the brother of John the Baptist. I have speculated that it perhaps means the brother of the High Priest, Cephas.

    1. It just arrived so I will start reading it. I am very open to your thesis. It is clear that rulers in antiquity saw the political usefulness of religion. For example, Serapis (Σέραπις, Attic/Ionian Greek) or Sarapis (Σάραπις, Doric Greek), was instituted as a Graeco-Egyptian god for political reasons. The Cult of Serapis was introduced during the 3rd century BC on the orders of Ptolemy I of Egypt as a means to unify the Greeks and Egyptians in his realm. As Seneca said, “religion is true for the masses, false for the wise, and useful for the rulers.” Plato developed this theme in The Republic and Laws as “The Noble Lie.” I have always considered this out of the similarities between Jesus and Dionysus, and the line from Euripides “Bacchae” that says “Even though he [Dionysus] be no god, as you say, still say that he is. Be guilty of a splendid fraud, declaring Dionysus the son of Semele. For this would make it seem like she was the mother of a God, and would confer honor on our race.” Plato got the idea of “The Noble Lie” from Euripides.

    2. Hi Joe. I just finished the intro and chapter 1. So far so good. My favorite quote up to this point is when you write: “Imperial cults that portrayed Roman emperors as gods and workers of miracles appear to have been created solely because they were politically useful. The cults seem to have evoked no religious emotion. No evidence of any spontaneous offerings attesting to the sincerity of the worshipers has ever been discovered (CM, 37.).” We often get the idea that the ancients were just gullible, superstitious twits. Against this we might cite the words of the pre-Socratic philosopher, Protagoras, who wrote in ‘On the Gods,’ that “[c]oncerning the gods, I have no means of knowing whether they exist or not, nor of what sort they may be.”

      1. Hi John,

        It will be interesting to read some criticism on Vridar of Caesar’s Messiah from someone who has actually read the book. Note that Neil accused me of ‘parallelomania’ presumably without reading it. I am looking foward to your impressions.


          1. For anyone following this, here is Price’s review of Atwill’s “Caesar’s Messiah:” http://www.robertmprice.mindvendor.com/rev_atwill.htm
            Here are some of Atwill’s responses: http://caesarsmessiah.com/blog/2011/03/regarding-robert-prices-outdated-review-of-caesars-messiah/
            Here is Carrier’s critique of Atwill: http://freethoughtblogs.com/carrier/archives/4664
            And a link to Atwill’s responses to Carrier: http://vridar.org/2013/12/08/atwill-responds-to-carrier/

            1. From the first paragraph of Price’s review:

              “The controversial thesis of this book is that Christianity began as the opium of the Jewish people, mixed and prescribed for them by the crafty Flavian dynasty. Vespasian, Titus, and Domitian had had their fill of militant Zealotry and Sicariism. They could not bend the Jewish nationalists to their will even after a destructive war that leveled the temple of their God. No amount of torture could make Jewish prisoners deny their faith and call Caesar not only their salad but also their lord. And so Titus Caesar, with the help of his obedient lackey Josephus, devised a master deception whereby Jews should be seduced into worshipping Titus, divine son of the divine Vespasian, without knowing it, under the guise of a fictitious Jesus, divine son of a divine Father. The gospels were composed by Romans (and Roman stooges including defeated Zealot leader John of Gischala AKA John son of Zebedee) to catechize Jews into this new and false Judaism which, if they accepted it, should also lull them into a soporific pacifism convenient for Rome. The four canonical gospels and Josephus’ The Jewish War were designed and composed to be read together and so to reveal to the cognoscenti this secret origin and rationale for the Christian religion. Further, this Flavian Pentateuch, read thus intertextually, should disclose a series of cruel jokes and parodies of the very faith it presented for the consumption of the masses who read them literally. The Flavian aristocrats themselves would have gotten the jokes, especially the rich jest that the fools who fell for their scam religion were worshipping Titus without knowing it.”

              Price’s summary accurately captures Joe’s theory as a whole. If the summary was all there was to Joe’s theory, it would indeed amount to nothing more than rank speculation as there is nothing about the theory as summarized that is falsifiable, rendering the theory, as a whole, invalid. Nobody can read the minds of living people, let alone the minds of people who have been dead for thousands of years.

              On the other hand, if the entirety of Joe’s thesis were merely “the four canonical gospels were composed together,” it would be valid based on the evidence he presents and worthy of serious consideration. Again, a valid thesis is not necessarily true and correct.

              Yes, I’ve read Joe’s book.

              1. All the silent allusions to the Old Testament in the New Testament gospels suggest the writers were highly educated and very familiar with the Old Testament. But I don’t think the writers were rabbis, because they would have no reason to include all the allusions to the Greek writing of Homer that Dennis R. MacDonald, among others, have identified. The authors seem to be highly educated gentiles.

          2. Hi Neil,

            Interested in the basis for your criticism.

            Would you mind explaining how in your opinion the following short strand from my analysis does not have sufficient parallelism to be understood as typological mapping. By the way, this is not a strong example. I choose it simply because it shows one of the easiest to demonstrate and most egregious oversights in NT scholarship. The fact that the Josephus/Gospels parallels occur in the same locations.

            22) Innocent beaten worse than the guilty

            The parallel storylines then go on to a description of the innocent beaten worse than the guilty.

            “And that servant who knew his master’s will, and did not prepare [himself] or do according to his will, shall be beaten with many [stripes].
            “But he who did not know, yet committed things deserving of stripes, shall be beaten with few. For everyone to whom much is given, from him much will be required; and to whom much has been committed, of him they will ask the more.”
            Luke 12:47-48

            Upon which there was a very great disorder and disturbance about the holy house; while the people, who had no concern in the sedition, supposed that this assault was made against all without distinction, as the zealots thought it was made against themselves only.
            So these left off guarding the gates any longer, and leaped down from their battlements before they came to an engagement, and fled away into the subterranean caverns of the temple; while the people that stood trembling at the altar, and about the holy house, were rolled on heaps together, and trampled upon, and were beaten both with wooden and with iron weapons without mercy.
            Such also as had differences with others slew many persons that were quiet, out of their own private enmity and hatred, as if they were opposite to the seditious; and all those that had formerly offended any of these plotters were now known, and were now led away to the slaughter;
            and when they had done abundance of horrid mischief to the guiltless, they granted a truce to the guilty . . .
            Wars of the Jews, 5, 3, 101-104

            23) Divide the group 3 for 2

            The next parallel is so transparent as to not require an explanation. Notice that Luke underscores the linked concept, the “division by reducing from 3 to 2,” by repeating it.

            These followers of John also did now seize upon this inner temple, and upon all the warlike engines therein, and then ventured to oppose Simon.
            And thus that sedition, which had been divided into three factions, was now reduced to two.
            Wars of the Jews, 5, 3, 104-105

            “Do [you] suppose that I came to give peace on earth?
            “I tell you, not at all, but rather division.
            “For from now on five in one house will be divided: three against two, and two against three.”
            Luke 12:51-53

            24) Cut down the fruit tree

            Again, the next parallel is also obvious. Jesus “envisions” a fruit tree outside of Jerusalem that would be cut down, which it was.

            He also spoke this parable: “A certain [man] had a fig tree planted in his vineyard, and he came seeking fruit on it and found none.
            “Then he said to the keeper of his vineyard, ‘Look, for three years I have come seeking fruit on this fig tree and find none. Cut it down; why does it use up the ground?’
            “But he answered and said to him, ‘Sir, let it alone this year also, until I dig around it and fertilize [it].
            ‘And if it bears fruit, [well]. But if not, after that you can cut it down.’ ”
            Luke 13:6-9

            But Titus, intending to pitch his camp nearer to the city than Scopus, placed as many of his choice horsemen and footmen as he thought sufficient opposite to the Jews, to prevent their sallying out upon them, while he gave orders for the whole army to level the distance, as far as the wall of the city.
            So they threw down all the hedges and walls which the inhabitants had made about their gardens and groves of trees, and cut down all the fruit trees that lay between them and the wall of the city . . .
            Wars of the Jews 5, 3, 106-107

            25) The narrow gate and the shut door

            Luke then describes a “narrow gate” and the shutting of the door by the “Master”, followed by the points of the compass.

            And He went through the cities and villages, teaching, and journeying toward Jerusalem.
            Then one said to Him, “Lord, are there few who are saved?” And He said to them,
            “Strive to enter through the narrow gate, for many, I say to you, will seek to enter and will not be able.
            “When once the Master of the house has risen up and shut the door, and you begin to stand outside and knock at the door, saying, ‘Lord, Lord, open for us,’ and He will answer and say to you, ‘I do not know you, where you are from,’
            “then you will begin to say, ‘We ate and drank in Your presence, and You taught in our streets.’
            “But He will say, ‘I tell you I do not know you, where you are from. Depart from Me, all you workers of iniquity.’
            “There will be weeping and gnashing of teeth, when you see Abraham and Isaac and Jacob and all the prophets in the kingdom of God, and yourselves thrust out.
            “They will come from the east and the west, from the north and the south, and sit down in the kingdom of God.
            “And indeed there are last who will be first, and there are first who will be last.” Luke 13:22-30

            Josephus also describes the “narrow gate” that has been shut by the “Master of the house,” and the points of the compass.

            So Caesar . . . considered with himself how he might be even with the Jews for their stratagem.
            And now when the space between the Romans and the wall had been leveled, which was done in four days, and as he was desirous to bring the baggage of the army, with the rest of the multitude that followed him, safely to the camp, he set the strongest part of his army over against that wall which lay on the north quarter of the city, and over against the western part of it, and made his army seven deep,
            with the footmen placed before them, and the horsemen behind them, each of the last in three ranks, whilst the archers stood in the midst in seven ranks.
            And now as the Jews were prohibited, by so great a body of men, from making sallies upon the Romans, both the beasts that bare the burdens, and belonged to the three legions, and the rest of the multitude, marched on without any fear.
            But as for Titus himself, he was but about two furlongs distant from the wall, at that part of it where was the corner and over against that tower which was called Psephinus, at which tower the compass of the wall belonging to the north bended, and extended itself over against the west;
            but the other part of the army fortified itself at the tower called Hippicus, and was distant, in like manner, by two furlongs from the city.
            However, the tenth legion continued in its own place, upon the Mount of Olives.
            Wars of the Jews, 5, 3, 128-135

            Luke and Josephus follow the obvious typological linkages above, with one that is more conceptual. They each give a description of Jerusalem just before the “triumphal entrance” of the son of Man.

            26) How to build a tower

            “For which of you, intending to build a tower, does not sit down first and count the cost, whether he has [enough] to finish [it — ]
            “lest, after he has laid the foundation, and is not able to finish, all who see [it] begin to mock him,
            “saying, ‘This man began to build and was not able to finish.’ ”
            Luke 14: 28-30

            Titus went round the wall looking for the best place to build a tower
            Wars of the Jews, 5, 6, 258

            27) Send a delegation

            “Or what king, going to make war against another king, does not sit down first and consider whether he is able with ten thousand to meet him who comes against him with twenty thousand?
            “Or else, while the other is still a great way off, he sends a delegation and asks conditions of peace.”
            Luke 14:31-32

            . . . Josephus . . . attempted to discourse to those that were upon the wall, about terms of peace . . .
            Wars of the Jews, 5, 6, 261

            28) The triumphal entrance and the stones that cried out

            Luke then describes Jesus beginning his triumphant entrance into Jerusalem. In the passage, Luke describes “stones” that “cry out,” and then that which was “hidden from the eyes”.

            And they threw their own clothes on the colt, and they set Jesus on him.
            And as He went, [many] spread their clothes on the road.
            Then, as He was now drawing near the descent of the Mount of Olives, the whole multitude of the disciples began to rejoice and praise God with a loud voice for all the mighty works they had seen,
            saying: ” ‘Blessed [is] the King who comes in the name of the LORD! Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!’ ”
            And some of the Pharisees called to Him from the crowd, “Teacher, rebuke Your disciples.”
            But He answered and said to them, “I tell you that if these should keep silent, the stones would immediately cry out.”
            Now as He drew near, He saw the city and wept over it,
            saying, “If you had known, even you, especially in this your day, the things [that make] for your peace! But now they are hidden from your eyes.
            Luke 19: 35-42

            Josephus then describes Titus’ “triumphant entrance” into Jerusalem. In other words, Josephus describes Titus’ “entrance” into the city, which were the stones hurled by catapults. In the passage, Josephus made an apparent mistake writing the “Son Cometh” rather than the “Stone Cometh”. Though the apparent error has puzzled scholars, this analysis makes the satirical and typological meaning of Josephus’ “error” clear. Notice that Josephus first describes “the coming of the stone”, then a stone that “cries out,” and finally he recorded that the “son/stone” was “hidden from your (the Jews’) eyes”. It is amusing that in Whiston’s translation below he inadvertently, but correctly, captures the real meaning of Josephus’ wordplay concerning “stones crying out” with his phrase – “and the stone came from it, and cried out aloud”. In other words, the Greek statement can be logically read in two ways; one way is just as Jesus predicted – the stones cried out. Notice also, that what the stones would “cry out” in the Gospels, was the true identity of the son of God. This is exactly what Josephus recorded the “stone” did in the passage below.
            The sequence of concepts in this passage creates a clearly obvious typological connection to the “stones that cried out” passage in Luke 19 when viewed from this new perspective.

            The engines, that all the legions had ready prepared for them, were admirably contrived; but still more extraordinary ones belonged to the tenth legion: those that threw darts and those that threw stones were more forcible and larger than the rest, by which they not only repelled the excursions of the Jews, but drove those away that were upon the walls also.
            Now the stones that were cast were of the weight of a talent, and were carried two furlongs and further. The blow they gave was no way to be sustained, not only by those that stood first in the way, but by those that were beyond them for a great space.
            As for the Jews, they at first watched the coming of the stone, for it was of a white color, and could therefore not only be perceived by the great noise it made, but could be seen also before it came by its brightness;
            accordingly the watchmen that sat upon the towers gave them notice when the engine was let go, and the stone came from it, and cried out aloud, in their own country language, “THE SON COMETH” so those that were in its way stood off, and threw themselves down upon the ground; by which means, and by their thus guarding themselves, the stone fell down and did them no harm.
            But the Romans contrived how to prevent that by blacking the stone, who then could aim at them with success, when the stone was not discerned beforehand, as it had been till then; and so they destroyed many of them at one blow.
            Wars of the Jews 5, 6, 269-273

            Note that in Hebrew son is “ben” and stone is “eben”. The pun on these words used in the passage above was established earlier in the Gospels:

            “. . . and do not think to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as [our] father.’ For I say to you that God is able to raise up sons to Abraham from these stones.
            Matt 3: 9

            INSIDE THE CITY

            29) Jerusalem encircled with a wall

            Luke then describes Jesus “envisioning” the encircling of Jerusalem with a wall. Note that the overall pattern connects to a parallel that cannot be disputed. Scholars have always recognized that Luke 19:43 was dependant upon Josephus’ description of Jerusalem encircled with a wall, but heretofore have not seen the parallel in the overall pattern. The fact that the overall pattern directly connects to an incontrovertible parallel supports the premise that the pattern is deliberate.

            “For days will come upon you when your enemies will build an embankment around you, surround you and close you in on every side,
            “and level you, and your children within you, to the ground; and they will not leave in you one stone upon another, because you did not know the time of your visitation.”
            Luke 19:43-44

            Josephus then describes Titus’ – after he had camped within the city – encircling of Jerusalem with a wall. Scholars have always understood this event as the basis for Jesus’ prophecy above.

            . . . they must build a wall round about the whole city; which was, he thought, the only way to prevent the Jews from coming out any way, and that then they would either entirely despair of saving the city, and so would surrender it up to him, or be still the more easily conquered when the famine had further weakened them;
            for that besides this wall, he would not lie entirely at rest afterward, but would take care then to have banks raised again, when those that would oppose them were become weaker:
            but that if any one should think such a work to be too great, and not to be finished without much difficulty, he ought to consider that it is not fit for Romans to undertake any small work, and that none but God himself could with ease accomplish any great thing whatsoever.
            Wars of the Jews, 5, 12, 499-501

            Looking forward to you thoughts.


            1. Parallels can be found anywhere. I can see parallels between figures I have read about and shapes in the clouds. Scholars have sometimes found parallels between fourth, fifth, sixth century rabbinic literature and the letters of Paul — which led to Sandmel’s famous article on “parallelomania”.

              When I read parallels that argue for intertextuality by Brodie, MacDonald and others, I am helped by each author setting out what they argue are criteria that justify the case that passages in one source have been adapted by the gospels and other NT literature.

              Have you set out what you see as criteria of this sort? If so, then can you — as these other authors do — list the points in the respective texts that fall under each criterion.

              Examples of criteria: distinctive words/images; density of ideas; how one text is a transvaluation of the other: interpretability — i.e. how meaning is enriched when the parallels are noted, etc.

              The parallels you set out are simply not distinctive and do not add meaning as far as I can see. Both the gospels and Josephus refer to war events or scenarios that we might expect in much other literature. If you can make a case for distinctiveness, interpretability, other criteria, then I might be led to see something that just does not register with me at present.

              1. Hi Neil,

                What can I say? Just using the examples I cited, if a human Passover lamb, three crucified but one survives and Simon condemned and John spared are not “distinctive” please give an example of one that is as you have simply lost me. Moreover notice that these unique parallels occur in the same sequence in both works.

                Also inside the parallels are linkages that confirm the Josephus/Gospels mapping. Consider the Joseph of Arimathea and Josephus bar Matthias parallelism – their similar names, their job descriptions and the fact that they begged the Roman commander.


            2. You can see how the Gospels might be taken as “comedy.” For example, the comic-like stupidity of the disciples in Mark:

              In Mark 4 Jesus presents the parable of the sower to a crowd and the disciples later ask him about the meaning. He tells them they have already been given the secret of the kingdom of God. He asks them, “don’t you understand this parable?” Then, “How will you understand any parable?” Clearly, Jesus is telling them they are supposed to get it! Later in that chapter, there are several more parables for the crowds and a later explanation is needed for the disciples. They go out on the lake and a storm blows up while Jesus is napping. When the disciples panic, Jesus asks them why they still don’t have any faith? Despite Jesus casing out demons, healing diseases and authoritatively teaching in synagogues, the disciples ask, “Who is this?”

              In Mark 6, Jesus sends out his twelve disciples two-by-two to drive out demons, preach repentance and anoint the sick. It would be interesting to know where the disciples thought this special power came from. After miraculously feeding 5,000 people, Jesus sends his disciples out in a boat, dismisses the crowd and goes off to pray. The disciples are fighting to get their boat across the sea against the wind and Jesus walks out on the water, catching up with them and scaring them half to death. He climbs in the boat and they get into a discussion about food, still confused about how they fed 5,000 people. The text says their hearts were hardened.

              In Mark 7, Jesus talks about what defiles a body, since the disciples were eating with unwashed hands. He talked about defilement and afterwards the disciples asked him about his statements. Jesus asked them, “Are you so dull?”

              In Mark 8, after feeding 4,000 more people and having seven baskets of bread left over, the disciples go out in a boat with only one loaf of bread and wonder how they will eat! Jesus seems to get perturbed and goes off on them. “Why are you talking about having no bread? Do you still not see or understand? Are your hearts hardened? Do you have eyes but fail to see, and ears but fail to hear? And don’t you remember? When I broke the five loaves for the five thousand, how many basketfuls of pieces did you pick up? And when I broke the seven loaves for the four thousand, how many basketfuls of pieces did you pick up? Do you still not understand?” No, they did not understand.

              In Mark 8:31, 9:30 and 10:32, Jesus plainly explained to his disciples about his upcoming suffering, death and resurrection from the dead. Peter rebuked Jesus for saying such things and the disciples were reportedly afraid to ask questions. When Jesus was covered with perfume at a dinner, he explained that it was really in preparation for his burial. The disciples saw the handwriting on the wall and figured out that Jesus was going to be killed, but they certainly did not expect his resurrection, despite being repeatedly told about it.

              The disciples’ tutelage under Jesus would bring an elementary school teacher to tears. The disciples are stupid to the point of comedy.

        1. Halfway through the chapter on “Demons of Gadara.” I think there is a prima facie case that we can look to Josephus for inspiration for the New Testament. On page 17 you present a chart for Matthew presenting Jesus as The New Moses. As Price points out this comes from the account in Josephus, not The Old testament:

          A The Gospel of Matthew: The Nativity of Jesus

          On the whole Matthew seems to have borrowed the birth story of Jesus from Josephus’ retelling of the nativity of Moses. Whereas Exodus had Pharaoh institute the systematic murder of Hebrew infants simply to prevent a strong Hebrew fifth column in case of future invasion, Josephus makes the planned pogrom a weapon aimed right at Moses, who in Josephus becomes a promised messiah in his own right. Amram and Jochabed, expecting baby Moses, are alarmed. What should they do? Abort the pregnancy? God speaks in a dream to reassure them. “One of those sacred scribes, who are very sagacious in foretelling future events truly, told the king that about this time there would a child be borne to the Israelites, who, if he were reared, would bring the Egyptian dominion low, and would raise the Israelites; that he would excel all men in virtue, and obtain a glory that would be remembered through the ages. Which was so feared by the king that, according to this man’s opinion, he commanded that they should cast every male child into the river, and destroy it… A man, whose name was Amram, … was very uneasy at it, his wife being then with child, and he knew not what to do… Accordingly God had mercy on him, and was moved by his supplication. He stood by him in his sleep, and exhorted him not to despair of his future favours… ‘For that child, out of dread for whose nativity the Egyptians have doomed the Israelites’ children to destruction, shall be this child of thine… he shall deliver the Hebrew nation from the distress they are under from the Egyptians. His memory shall be famous whole the world lasts.’” (Antiquities, II, IX, 2-3)

          It is evident that Matthew has had merely to change a few names. Herod the Great takes the role of the baby-killing Pharaoh, and he is warned by his own scribes (along with the Magi) of the impending birth of a savior, whereupon he resolves to kill every child he has to in order to eliminate the child of promise. Joseph takes the place of Amram, though the precise cause of his unease is different. Mary takes the place of Jochabed. A dream from God steels Joseph, like Amram, in his resolve to go through with things.

          The rest of Matthew’s birth story is woven from a series of formulaic scripture quotations. He makes Isaiah 7:14 LXX refer to the miraculous virginal conception of Jesus. It is likely that he has in this case found a scripture passage to provide a pedigree for a widespread hagiographical mytheme, the divine paternity of the hero, which had already passed into the Christian tradition, unless of course this is the very door through which it passed.

          It is revealing that Matthew’s Magi learn from scribal exegesis of Micah 5:2 that the messiah must be born in Bethlehem. This is the same way Matthew “knew” Jesus was born there–it had to be!

          The flight of the Holy Family into Egypt comes equally from exegesis, this time of Hosea 11:1, which allows Matthew to draw a parallel between his character Joseph and the Genesis patriarch Joseph, who also went to Egypt. Matthew also seems here to want to foreshadow the death and resurrection of Jesus. Note that Isaiah 52:9-10 makes the exodus from Egypt into a historical replay of God’s primordial victory over the sea dragon Rahab, equating Egypt with Rahab. Matthew also knew that Jonah was swallowed by a sea monster at God’s behest, and he saw this as a prefiguration of Jesus’ descent into the tomb (Matthew 12:40). The flight into Egypt has the child Jesus already going down into Rahab, the belly of the sea beast.

          The closest Matthew can come, via punning exegesis, to providing a prooftext for Jesus having become known as “the Nazarene” would seem to be Judges 13:7, “The boy shall be a Nazirite to God from birth.” He knew Jesus must be born in Bethlehem yet was called “Jesus of Nazareth,” so he cobbled together a story whereby Jesus was born in Mary and Joseph’s home in Bethlehem, only to relocate in Nazareth (after Egypt) to avoid the wrath of Archelaus (Matthew 2:22-23). Luke, on the other hand, working with the same two assumptions, contrived to have Mary and Joseph live in Nazareth but to be in Bethlehem for the census when the time came for Jesus to be born. In both cases, exegesis has produced narrative.”
          You say in the Chapter on The Demons of Gadara that “the Gospel’s Gadara story is, in and of itself, incoherent. Within the context of The New Testament, there is no theological or moral principle that can be gleaned from the story of a legion of Demons that enter a herd of swine that then run wildly into a river then drown (CM, 76).” This seems to be a good point. The gospel writers at this point seem to be mixing in allusions to Josephus, as you say, and, as Dennis MacDonald says, on the other, to Homer:
          The Gerasene Demoniac (Mark 5:1-20)

          Again, Mark has mixed together materials from scripture and from the Odyssey. Clearly, as MacDonald shows (pp. 65, 73, 173), the core of the story derives from Odyssey 9:101-565. Odysseus and his men come to shore in the land of the hulking Cyclopes, just as Jesus and his disciples arrive by boat in the land of the Gerasenes (or Gergesenes, supposedly the remnant of the ancient Girgashites, hence possibly associated with the mythical Anakim/Rephaim, Derrett, p. 102, who were giants). Goats graze in one landscape, pigs in the other. Leaving their boats, each group immediately encounters a savage man-monster who dwells in a cave. The demoniac is naked, and Polyphemus was usually depicted naked, too. The Cyclops asks Odysseus if he has come with intent to harm him, just as the Gerasene demoniac begs Jesus not to torment him. Polyphemus asks Odysseus his name, and the latter replies “Noman,” while Jesus asks the demoniac his name, “Legion,” a name reminiscent of the fact that Odysseus’ men were soldiers. Jesus expels the legion of demons, sending them into the grazing swine, recalling Circe’s earlier transformation of Odysseus’ troops into swine. Odysseus contrives to blind the Cyclops, escaping his cave. The heroes depart, and the gloating Odysseus bids Polyphemus to tell others how he has blinded him, just as Jesus tells the cured demoniac to tell how he has exorcised him. As Odysseus’ boat retreats, Polyphemus cries out for him to return, but he refuses. As Jesus is about to depart, the man he cured asks to accompany him, but he refuses. As MacDonald notes, sheer copying from the source is about the only way to explain why Jesus should be shown refusing a would-be disciple.

          Psalm 107, whence details of the stilling of the storm were borrowed, has also made minor contributions to this story as well. The detail of the demoniac having been chained up seem to come from Psalm 107’s description of “prisoners in irons” (v. 10), who “wandered in desert wastes” (v. 4) and “cried to the LORD in their trouble” (v. 6), who “broke their chains asunder” (v. 14). It is also possible that Mark had in mind the Exodus sequence, and that he has placed the story here to correspond to the drowning of the Egyptian hosts in the Sea.

          Interesting work so far. I’ll keep reading.

            1. It is amazing how a seemingly simple pericope can have such a complex literary structure. It is almost as if the Gospels have an exoteric meaning (lots of exciting miracles) to appeal to the masses, and an intertextual esoteric meaning to challenge the “sophoi.”

          1. I wrote “This seems to be a good point. The gospel writers at this point seem to be mixing in allusions to Josephus, as you say, and, as Dennis MacDonald says, on the other, to Homer:”

            The sentence should have read “This seems to be a good point. The gospel writers at this point seem to be mixing in allusions to Josephus, on the one hand, as you say, and, as Dennis MacDonald says, on the other, to Homer:

          2. The structure of the Gospels are extremely intricate, so the writers were highly educated. Given the numerous silent allusions to Homer, it seems unlikely that the writers were all rabbis.

          3. It also seems a “farce” that Matthew’s Jesus would be the fulfillment of the nativity of Moses, not in the Old Testament, BUT IN JOSEPHUS RETELLING OF THE NATIVITY OF MOSES. Mathew has Jesus fulfilling Josephus!

            1. In my complementary reading, the NT reflects Josephus. But only as a side effect of what is happening more generally.

              Generally I see the NT as often a series of confused renderings, from confused rumors, folk tales, about dozens of often real local historical heroes, “Lords,” both Jewish and Roman. (Particularly, Herod and his sons)

              Since Josephus writes solid history of those events, early gospels look like, in effect. a garbled account of in effect, Josephus. But that’s just a side effect of … narrating garbled accounts of history. Which to be sure, Joesephus had better described.

              Possibly many of the narrators for the gospels could not read. Though no doubt illiterate people recycled popular rumors about lords. These storytellers had their own, distorted oral folk versions, from the popular rumors on current events, heroes, lords.

              So Jesus we suggest, is the composite of confused oral tales about a dozen lords, whose stories had become conflated.

              Things were straighter in Josephus. But it’s possible they rarely read him. Relying more on unreliable rumors, directly.

              1. If you are interested, here is a fascinating article on the relationship between Josephus and The New Testament by Andrew Gould, based on Robert Eisenman’s book “The New Testament Code:”


                – Here is a short selection from the article by Andrew Gould:

                From Paul’s letters, it is clear that he knew absolutely nothing about Jesus (apart from his crucifixion), which of course reflects the intrinsic limitation of direct communication with supernatural beings as a means of learning historical facts. Hence, Paul’s communities were not trained in any aspect of Jesus’s teaching, either real or imagined, but rather were fed a barely refurbished Hellenistic mystery cult based on drinking the blood of a human God. To the extent that Paul’s communities flourished, they did so without any reference to the real Jesus or the historical process of which he was a part. Hence, it seems unlikely to me that these communities themselves would call forth the literary creations of Acts or the Gospels. Moreover, I do not know of any evidence that Paul’s communities did organically
                grow into the post-Jewish-War Christian movement, which soon began contending for ideologically control of the Roman empire. What we do know is that almost immediately, there were Christian cells high up in Roman society, including right in the Emperor’s household and, indeed, his immediate family. Recall that Domitian murdered a fair number of these in 95 C.E., and was himself murdered 2 years later, probably in retaliation for this. Thus, it appears far more likely that The New Testament was created by would-be “philosopher kings”, who consciously followed the path advocated by Plato in his Republic of creating a set of religious myths that would enable the ruling classes to maintain ideological control over the masses.

              2. There are still one or two problem bits to Josephus, in that he has two Herod Agrippas of exactly the same name, whereas coins are for only a single Herod Agrippa and the jews themselves only mention one in the Talmud.

                That aside…Acts 5 is a direct swipe from Josephus’ passage on Theudas and Judas the Galilean, without the point Josephus made that Judas was actually the earlier.

                Considering there is a late-first century Jewish Josephus AND a mid-second century CHRISTIAN Josephus known as Hegessipus…we have two possibilities as to which one Acts came after.

              3. Interesting stuff. I’ll agree that later writers used Josephus. But still suggest many early ones went mostly with oral rumors about lords.

                Who to be sure, were happy to capitalize on hero worship.

          4. When I read a couple of reviews of DR MacDonald (any relation?), I started reading the passage in The Odyssey. The name “Polyphemus” caught my eye as I remembered from fifth grade geometry that “poly-” meant “many” and the “for we are many” in Mark. Sure enough, Mark used “polys”. I looked at the name a little more and it turned out the other root refers to speech, as in “blasphemy”, so Polyphemus is literally “many talk about” or “famous”. Mark used the Latin word “Legio” which could be “many soldiers”. He placed the name immediately after the Greek word “lego” for “said”, and since the space between words hadn’t been invented, it would have been “legolegio”, for “say many”. I interpret that as Mark bending over backwards to make it clear that Legion was the Cyclops.

        2. Joe:

          Thanks much for your participation; seems like a good contrversy-proving book.

          I’ve only read the summary, but 1) I like the emphasis on humor.

          Too, 2) could we read the conspiracies as to some extent accidental? Or for that matter, a later editorialization by the later church? Though I’m open to the possibility that it was all early.

          My own thesis is that the origins of Christianity came from ever day people idolizing human ” lords, ” Jewish and Greco Roman too. As if they were gods.

          So Judaism and Christianity weren’t just imposed by our overlords. But generated from below, by popular superstitions, regarding lords.

          Sorry I haven’t read it yet. But it seems successfully provocative. And full of valid scholarship.

        3. I have at least done a first read of Caesar’s Messiah…and I’ll at least give it a “possible.”

          The idea of the logic puzzle spread across four different accounts of the resurrection morning and their relationships to what part of the dawn it was…yeah, as ALLEGORY or FICTION that’s quite workable to have such a puzzle and COULD be the sort of thing you’d expect gnostics to be able to discern.

          Definitely if it were a “GNOSTIC-first” scenario.

          Where I’ll give it some credence is…there IS an extant bit I’ve read about Vespasian going to Alexandria and his vision of Basilides. IGNORING the proto-Catholic/proto-Orthodox slander of Basilides’ later Gnostic-Christian role…Vespasian’s inolvement with Basilides would indicate a first moment where a mystery religion could be developed. Later Basilides is known to be a Gnostic teacher.

          The problem we really have is that Acts is treated too much as a history. And Acts has had to rely on Josephus anyway.

          The one thing I’m definitely accepting as a given and pretty much proven is Lazarus. Whether as an allegory/fiction or based on real events, the easiest way to set up an ILLUSION of a resurrection IS a pre-emptied tomb.

          You also need one youth in a linen cloth, as the short ending to Mark informs us WAS the occupant of the empty tomb.

          Even if Jesus was dead and in a tomb that WAS closed up…the idea was the transmigration of the soul was the key concept. His soul was in the youth in the linen cloth…and the youth simply had to sit in the more emptier tomb of Lazarus.

          Oh, and Neil, if you want a citation…I’ve got a doozy for you. From the known fragments of the Gospel of the Hebrews as quoted to us by Jerome:

          “Also the Gospel according to the Hebrews, lately translated by me into Greek and Latin speech, which Origen often uses, tells, after the resurrection of the Saviour: ‘Now the Lord, when he had given the linen cloth unto the servant of the priest, went unto James and appeared to him (for James had sworn that he would not eat bread from that hour wherein he had drunk the Lord’s cup until he should see him risen again from among them that sleep)’, and again after a little, ‘Bring ye, saith the Lord, a table and bread’, and immediately it is added, ‘He took bread and blessed and brake and gave it unto James the Just and said unto him: My brother, eat thy bread, for the Son of Man is risen from among them that sleep’.”

          Note the key “when he had given the Linen Cloth unto the servant of the priest.”

          The Jesus soul has transmigrated to the Youth in the Linen Cloth.

          Why is it that modern researchers never think to look at one repeated pattern in the ancient writings of BOTH sides of Christianity? That the underlying thread IS a youth in a linen cloth?

          The poor lad seems to be so ignored by the Catholic/proto-Orthodox…but greatly hinted at all through Gnostic Christianity.

          Now, Joe, this is where I’ll swing back to your thesis…how much would Herod Agrippa II being involved in a Flavian satire?

          1. Price, like Atwill, sees a connection between the Caesars and the gospels. Price writes: The Gospel of Mark Introduction (1:1–3)

            The syncretic flavor of Mark is at once evident from his reproduction of a piece of Augustan imperial propaganda and his setting it beside a tailored scripture quote. “The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ the Son of God” closely matches the formula found on a monument erected by the Provincial Assembly in Asia Minor (1st century BCE): “Whereas… Providence… has… brought our life to the peak of perfection in giving us Augustus Caesar… who, being sent to us and to our descendants as a savior…, and whereas… the birthday of the god has been for the whole world the beginning of the gospel (euaggelion) concerning him, let all reckon a new era beginning from the date of his birth.”

          2. Hi George,

            My conjecture is that the first attempt at a pro-Roman messiah was Julius Marcus Agrippa. ‘Q’ is perhaps sayings from this literature that attempted to create ‘Mark’ as a peaceful alternative to the messiah characters depicted in the DSS. Some of ‘Mark’s’ material was reused when the Flavian, Herod and Alexander families concocted the first ‘Gospel’ following the 66-73 CE war and infused it with the zany typology that revealed the identity of the ‘Son of Man’ that Jesus predicted.

            What is not conjecture is that the cult of the Roman Catholic Saint Veronica was located at the Palace of Marcus’s sister Bernice and that Veronica is the Latin for Bernice. Moreover, Eusebius and other ancients mention the statue of Jesus and a woman touching his hem at Caesarea Philippi where the palace complex was located and some ancients have suggested that the statutes were actually Titus and Bernice.


            1. Joe…

              Yeah…was examining that point on my own a day or two ago before reading the above…no accident that Berenice/St Veronica are tied to that exact spot.

              Of course, her relationship history would make a more genteel woman blush…

              Herod Agrippa actually makes perfect sense especially as the youth in the linen cloth IF we get over the fact Josephus or later personalities/early church fathers playing editor created TWO Herod Agrippas instead of the one known to the Jews.

              I was even postulating how the later part of Acts where Paul is having a rough time with the Jewish church and needing Roman help might actually be an ALLEGORY for Herod Agrippa (II)’s OWN troubles with the zealots at the start of the 66-70 revolt.

              I keep finding the “Youth in the Linen Cloth” connection is what would tie Herod Agrippa into it properly.

              It’s the core feature of every gnostic version, of the Gospel of the Hebrews even, and it’s significant he’s sitting in what’s theoretically an empty tomb.

              All he needs is an enthronement…

              But in real terms…if he was YOUNGER than originally thought at the time Tiberius died and Caligula rose to power…he’d think Caligula releasing him a “resurrection.”

              Since I’ve read the Talmudic references to Herod Agrippa, for me it’s puzzle solved.

              Original “standing one” in the earlier reference…in the later one talking the “Two Powers in Heaven” stuff which the rabbinical stream associated with the earliest Christianity…and then we only need a Talmudic reference to the time AFTER 73c.e. to complete the set and see the Gospel/Great Proclaimation for what it is…something replacing Torah (or sending it more underground for a while)…at the start of Exile. But if we consider that post 70-73c.e. he was still was in some way in charge of some/most of his old holdings…he had less problem from the zealots, less problem from the Pharisees/Rabbis…and was still HUGELY popular with his SAMARITAN subjects, the Greeks in the area AND the Alexandrian Samaritans and Hellenic Jews…in which case any “gospel” he said was…REPLACEMENT for the Torah. And Roman propaganda policy.

              The only way I can even see a human “Jesus” remotely near it at that point is if the zealots were creating their own allegory to do with Judas the Galilean as a way of countering the Roman/Agrippan “gospel.”

            2. Joe, also on Mark…you’d need to factor in the Samaritan Mark, called Marqe.
              Interestingly, his Samaritan name actually means Mark, son of Titus…which does help your thesis. He was important enough to have left a lasting impression on Samaritan liturgy…even if they’ve lost the memory of who he was.

              Memar Marqeh I won’t consider 4th century, but late-first. Intriguingly, today I learned of the Aramaic word “Memra” and its meaning as “Word.” How this connects into the Targums, leaving me wondering if Herod Agrippa or the Romans had any input on any of the Targums. Memra…Memar…

              Perhaps also an exploration of Herod Agrippa (II) as the messiah of Daniel 9:26 and how Daniel was KEY to the messianic expectation of that time might help your thesis.

  11. Connections between Caesars and the gospels have been made ever since Bruno Bauer and most recently discussed here in Peppard’s work. Atwill’s thesis is highly speculative, however. And the parallels he finds with Josephus do not conform, from what I recall, to any rigorous criteria such as MacDonald and Brodie and Allison and others apply in their works on parallel texts.

    1. Well, Eisenman called Atwill’s book “Challenging and provocative.” And Eisenman goes on to say “If what Joseph Atwill is saying is only partially true, we are looking into the abyss.” And Eisenman is an expert on the relationship between Josephus and the gospels (from his analysis in his books “James The Brother of Jesus” and “The New Testament Code”)

  12. Responding to Joe Atwill’s question above:

    The episode of Josephus appealing to Titus to have his crucified friends taken down is well known and its broad overlaps with the gospel narratives are addressed in various works (e.g. Crossan). But what to make of the overlaps, how to interpret them, is not obvious.

    Studies relying upon criteria to assess literary influence, from what I recall, are not content to rely upon just one criterion to establish any links. Distinctiveness alone is insufficient. I sometimes wonder about the relationships of certain passages but can do nothing with them simply because I cannot prove or establish a reasonably objective case. They have to remain curiosities.

    Do the evangelists refer to events known in common to themselves and Josephus? Do they rely on what they have heard indirectly from something found in Josephus? Are they influenced by Josephus or are they actually writing “intertextuality” — a significant difference, of course.

    And on top of all that, yes, there are coincidences in real life.

    The similarities between the three crucified persons in the gospels and Josephus’s Life and the survival of one, etc, are interesting but the way to interpret them are not unambiguously clear cut. Perhaps the earliest evangelist did find some sort of copy-cat inspiration from Josephus, but even if we accept that as a possibility then we are still left with a myriad of ways to interpret the link. In fact, we simply cannot know what lay behind such a possibility.

    And the first step is to find more than just a single criterion to be sure we have more than a coincidence.

    I believe it is certainly going way too far to — hypotheses upon hypotheses — to draw the conclusions I find in your book.

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