Jesus and “The Egyptian”: What to make of the Mount of Olives parallel?

Creative Commons License

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

by Neil Godfrey

Christ on the Mount of Olives: Andrea Mantegna, 1459
Christ on the Mount of Olives: Andrea Mantegna, 1459

Once more exploring a question raised by Lena Einhorn in A Shift in Time — this time with doubts….

Was Jesus originally the Egyptian prophet we read about in the works of the ancient Jewish historian Josephus? Lena Einhorn seems to think so in A Shift in Time where she lists seven points in common between them. I won’t discuss those seven points but will look at her seventh:

And last, but not least, “the Egyptian” is defeated on the Mount of Olives, which is where Jesus was arrested. It is also from there that both men have declared their prophecies [that the walls of Jerusalem would fall down].

Actually Jesus predicted the walls of the buildings, in particular the Temple, would be pulled down, not the walls of Jerusalem. I have thought of the Egyptian as attempting to re-enact Joshua’s feat of miraculously having the walls of a great city collapse while Jesus (the Greek form of Joshua) spoke of the destruction of the Temple. But that’s a caveat we’ll set aside for now but return to later.

To begin, let’s be sure we have the picture. Josephus writes about the Egyptian twice, first in Wars (written about 78 CE) and second in Antiquities (about 94 CE). Here’s what he tells us:

But there was an Egyptian false prophet that did the Jews more mischief than the former; for he was a sorcerer, and pretended to be a prophet also, and got together thirty thousand men that were deluded by him;

these he led round about from the wilderness to the mount which was called the Mount of Olives, and was ready to break into Jerusalem by force from that place; and if he could but once conquer the Roman garrison and the people, he intended to domineer over them by the assistance of those guards of his that were to break into the city with him.

But Felix prevented his attempt, and met him with his Roman soldiers, while all the people assisted him in his attack upon them, insomuch that when it came to a battle, the Egyptian ran away, with a few others, while the greatest part of those that were with him were either destroyed or taken alive; but the rest of the multitude were dispersed every one to their own homes, and there concealed themselves.

War of the Jews 2.261–263

Then about fifteen years later Josephus wrote:

There came out of Egypt about this time to Jerusalem one that said he was a prophet, and advised the multitude of the common people to go along with him to the Mount of Olives, as it was called, which lay over against the city, and at the distance of five  furlongs.

He said further, that he would show them from hence how, at his command, the walls of  Jerusalem would fall down; and he promised them that he would procure them an entrance into the city through those walls, when they were fallen down.

Now when Felix was informed of these things, he ordered his soldiers to take their weapons, and came against them with a great number of horsemen and footmen from Jerusalem, and attacked the Egyptian and the people that were with him. He also slew four hundred of them, and took two hundred alive.

But the Egyptian himself escaped out of the fight, but did not appear any more. 

Antiquities of the Jews 20.169–172

The story has changed in some details over those fifteen years. The event itself is set in the 50s CE. Josephus first writes about it around 20 or more years later. That’s about the same time span between today and the catastrophic raid on the Branch Davidian cult in Waco, Texas. Josephus appears to be saying that the Egyptian’s plan was to attack Jerusalem without any thought of a miracle to open the gates for them.

Approximately thirty five years after the event (compare today’s distance from the assassination attempt on President Reagan) Josephus introduces the Egyptian’s prophecy to command the walls of Jerusalem to do a Jericho.

So unless I am missing something hidden by a poor translation it seems that there is room for doubt that the Egyptian really was known at the time to have told his followers that the walls would obey his voice. One can imagine people talking about this fellow and mockingly asking how he could possibly have seriously thought he would take over Roman occupied Jerusalem, and how from such scoffing someone suggests he probably thought he could repeat the Jericho miracle. Or maybe he really did make such a declaration and Josephus simply failed to mention it in his first account. However that may be, years later when the event was recalled this detail did become part of the story. Who knows if it was Josephus’s memory or if he picked up the detail from someone else?

What, then, connects the Mount of Olives setting in the story of the Egyptian with our accounts of Jesus?

There are two links.

  1. Jesus delivered his prophecy about the destruction of the Temple and indeed the whole of Jerusalem from the Mount of Olives (Matthew 24; Mark 13; Luke 21). You will recall my little caveat above.
  2. Jesus was confronted by a cohort of 600 to 1000 Roman soldiers on the Mount of Olives. That’s news to you? It’s in the Gospel of John. The criterion of embarrassment usually obliges Christian scribes to record plainly whatever sounds embarrassing but somehow this detail has been lost in translation. I quote from two translations that most closely relay the Greek original:

So the Roman cohort and the commander and the officers of the Jews, arrested Jesus and bound Him . . . . (New American Standard Bible version of John 18:12)

So the battalion and their tribune and the Jewish police closed in, and took Jesus and bound Him. (Weymouth New Testament version of John 18:12)

A standard cohort is between 600 and 1000 soldiers. The word for commander or tribune is χιλίαρχος (=chiliarchos) which technically means a commander of 1000 men (recall chiliasm).

Lena Einhorn suggests that this detail in the Gospel of John is best explained as a vestige of an original story in which a large band of Roman troops came out to the Mount of Olives to capture/destroy the prophet with his large following.

I have to confess I stumble at this point of the argument. It seems to imply that the author of the Gospel was so incompetent that he could not remove a detail that is quite bizarre when he says there was only one person (potentially protected by eleven followers?) to be arrested.

I suggest that the author rather had some deliberate plan in mind when he chose to depict such an asymmetrical scenario. Compare, for example, the same author’s exaggerated account of the spices and things that Nicodemus brought for Jesus’ burial:

Nicodemus too–he who at first had visited Jesus by night–came bringing a mixture of myrrh and aloes, in weight about seventy or eighty pounds. (John 19:39, Weymouth)

Further, if we interpret details like this as remnants of prior historical reports then I think we are reading against the larger genre and function of the Gospel itself. The Gospel of John especially is a highly symbolic theological tale. I see no reason to presume it owes anything to any historical events. Such a presumption would need to be argued, not taken for granted, I think. The cohort reference looks like a symbolic touch to me when I place it beside the subsequent exchange between Pilate and Jesus where they discuss kingdoms and their respective powers.

Further yet, I happen to side with those who argue the author of the Gospel of John was in dialogue with the Gospel of Mark. Mark’s account reserves the arrest for an unruly mob from the Jewish priests. John purposes to involve the Romans in a forceful Roman way — marching in with a full Roman cohort. It’s Jesus against the whole world, not just the Jews, but the power of Rome itself.

The point of all this is that we don’t really need the Egyptian being clobbered by Romans on the Mount of Olives to count as a source for this part of the Jesus story.

And still yet further, Jesus facing a cohort of Romans on the Mount of Olives is a detail introduced by probably the very last-written Gospel. The scene was unknown to the earlier accounts. Would we not expect it to appear in the earlier narratives if such a detail derived from a gradually fading historical event?

There’s still one more stumbling block I face before accepting the Mount of Olives link with the Egyptian.

Jesus is modeled on many figures in the Jewish Scriptures — Adam, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, Moses, Joshua, David, Solomon, Elijah, Elisha come to mind. David is in that list.

A significant characteristic of the Gospel of John is that its Jesus is portrayed as a divinely in-control figure who does not stoop to weeping like David and who has not the least worry about being crucified. In fact it is this Fourth Gospel that even avoids mentioning the Mount of Olives at all and so cuts off any potential association with David. However, the author of this Gospel did inherit the story familiar to us in the earlier Gospels, especially the Gospel of Mark. In those earlier accounts Jesus is very closely modeled on the David figure.

2 Samuel 15 John 18; Mark 14
And David said unto all his servants that were with him at Jerusalem, Arise, and let us flee; . . . . 15 And the king’s servants said unto the king, Behold, thy servants are ready to do whatsoever my lord the king shall choose. . . . And Ittai answered the king, and said, As Jehovah liveth, and as my lord the king liveth, surely in what place my lord the king shall be, whether for death or for life, even there also will thy servant be. . . . And all the country wept with a loud voice, and all the people passed over: the king also himself passed over the brook Kidron, and all the people passed over, toward the way of the wilderness.

. . . .

And David went up by the ascent of the mount of Olives, and wept as he went up

When Jesus had spoken these words, he went forth with his disciples over the brook Kidron . . . .;
And . . .  they went out unto the mount of Olives. . . . But Peter said unto him, Although all shall be offended, yet will not I. . . . But he spake exceeding vehemently, If I must die with thee, I will not deny thee. And in like manner also said they all. . . .  And he saith unto them, My soul is exceeding sorrowful even unto death: . . . .And he cometh the third time, and saith unto them, Sleep on now, and take your rest: it is enough; the hour is come; behold, the Son of man is betrayed into the hands of sinners. Arise, let us be going: behold, he that betrayeth me is at hand.

I believe we have a sufficient explanation for Jesus’ association with the Mount of Olives here. The last hours of the “Son of David” and Davidic Messiah were deliberately modeled upon the fate of the David of Scriptures when he was betrayed and facing imminent death.

That doesn’t mean that our Gospel authors did not filter their narrative of Jesus through the sieve of Josephus or more directly through their own memories of historical events that happened to be recorded by Josephus. There are some strong reasons for thinking that the author of the Gospel of Mark modeled his Jesus in part on another Jesus we read about in Josephus: see the evidence here. It is very hard to deny that the author(s) of Luke-Acts wove information he/they read in Josephus into their accounts: see Goldberg and Carrier.

  • Dennis MacDonald finds the likeness of Homer’s Achilles and Odysseus in Jesus.
  • The Socrates comparison has been well recognized for over a century.
  • Lawrence Wills finds an Aesop model.
  • The Jesus we find in the Gospel of Matthew is very closely modeled on Moses.
  • Paul depicted him as a more exalted Adam.
  • Jon D. Levenson finds in him the lineaments of Isaac.
  • Jesus was rejected by his family and persecuted just like the godly heroes of Scripture (Jacob, Joseph, Jephthah, David…).
  • His miracles of raising the dead and feeding the multitudes emulate the deeds of Elijah and Elisha.
  • And so forth and so forth.

My difficulty with the identification of Jesus with the Egyptian is not that it is of itself unlikely, but that it should claim to be “the” identification. The evidence rather points to Jesus being constructed from many motifs available to his creators.




The following two tabs change content below.

Neil Godfrey

Neil is the author of this post. To read more about Neil, see our About page.

If you enjoyed this post, please consider donating to Vridar. Thanks!

113 thoughts on “Jesus and “The Egyptian”: What to make of the Mount of Olives parallel?”

  1. It was suggested to me that I comment on this very well-written article by Neil. It will, however, be hard to keep this short …

    First of all, I agree with Neil: the asymmetry between a cohort of 600 to 1000 Roman soldiers and a resting Jesus (with a few disciples) is striking. But to my mind, that’s just the point. The conclusion I have drawn after long hours comparing the New Testament with Josephus is that the New Testament – or rather each Gospel, and Acts – is not one book but two. One telling the obvious story, one telling the hidden. And the hidden story is absolutely impossible to perceive unless one has the books of Josephus open.

    Reading the New Testament by itself only leads to the observation of a number of bizarre, or inexplicable, details. And since our brains like to have everything neat and tidy, we tend to ignore those details, put them aside, or, at most, explain them as mistakes.

    But, I would argue, it is no mistake when Luke places Jesus’s birth at the time of the census (at least ten years later than Matthew does!), and does so without mentioning the concomitant birth of something else: the organized anti-Roman rebel movement. It is no mistake when the author of Luke/Acts manages to name all the first century rebel leaders up until the Jewish war, and does not explain who they are. It it is no mistake when the same author bizarrely chooses to place Judas the Galilean after Theudas (Acts 5:33-38), although he was active decades before Theudas. It is no mistake when Jesus tells his disciples to bring swords to the Mount of Olives (Luke 22:36), and then, fifteen verses later, tells them not to use them, And it is probably no mistake when the author of John supplies the strange detail that a resting Jesus was met by a cohort of 600 to 1000 Roman soldiers.

    It is, I would argue, all part of the subtext, the other story. The one that is historical, but has to be veiled, albeit only partially.

    It seems that whenever the tale is disguised on one level, it is opened up on another. So when the author of Luke/Acts mentions the rebel leaders Theudas and Judas the Galilean, he next places them in the wrong order. And when Jesus tells his disciples to bring swords to the Mount of Olives, he next tells them to put these away. But this all becomes considerably less weird when one keeps Josephus next to the New Testament, as a historical guide. And, importantly, the authors of the Gospels (especially Luke) stay remarkably close to Josephus. It’s almost as if they tease us, present us with a riddle to solve.

    Now I don’t disagree that in telling the story of Jesus, there may be a lot of deliberate modeling on earlier scriptures. Jesus, after all, had to fit with some earlier messianic notions. Letting him, for instance, be born in Bethlehem, although he was a Galilean, is easy to perceive as a construct. There are many such examples.

    But when it comes to the Mount of Olives, and Jesus’s final encounter with the authorities, the parallels with the historical events surrounding the defeat of “the Egyptian” are, I now believe, too striking to dismiss. That conclusion did not, however, come speedily, at least not to me.

    When I first read Josephus’s two descriptions of “the Egyptian,” I was struck by the similarities to Jesus – and keep in mind that aside from the disputed Testimonium Flavianum, Josephus does not seem to know about any Christian movement. But I still dismissed those similarities, since it all happened twenty years too late. And that was not the only difference.

    Although Neil didn’t list the similarities and differences between Jesus and “the Egyptian,” I will do so here.

    First the similarities:

    – Like Jesus, “the Egyptian” had previously lingered in “the wilderness” or “desert” (eremia, in Greek).
    – Like Jesus, “the Egyptian” had lived in Egypt.
    – Like Jesus, “the Egyptian” spoke of tearing down the walls of Jerusalem.
    – Like Jesus, “the Egyptian” is described as a messianic leader with a great following.
    – Like Jesus, “the Egyptian” is perceived as a major threat by the authorities.
    – Like Jesus, “the Egyptian” seems to have been betrayed—at least the authorities were informed beforehand about his plans.
    – And last, but not least, “the Egyptian” is defeated on the Mount of Olives, which is where Jesus was arrested. It is also from there that both men have declared their prophecies.

    Next the differences:

    – Unlike Jesus, “the Egyptian” was not crucified.
    – Unlike Jesus, “the Egyptian” did not appear in the 30s CE, but in the 50s.
    – Unlike Jesus, “the Egyptian” was not quietly awaiting his arrest on the Mount of Olives. He was defeated in a battle.

    To me, the difference in chronology was the one that stood out. It all happened in the wrong time. But as I kept reading, I came to realize that almost all the parallels between the New Testament and Josephus were in the wrong time, almost always twenty years later in Josephus. I still, however, did not make the connection. That only happened when I came upon the original Greek version of John 18. If there was an army meeting Jesus on the Mount of Olives, then there really must have been a battle. And Jesus’s instruction to the disciples that they had to bring swords to the Mount of Olives suddenly had a context.

    Of course, these verses in John could still be modeled on scripture, and mean nothing historically. But as it turns out, we do have a close historical analogy, in Josephus! And after a battle is presumed, and after the chronological shift is put in context, only one difference between the tale of “the Egyptian” and that of Jesus remains: the crucifixion. I discuss this in my book, where I bring up the curious release of Jesus Barabbas.

      1. Indeed. And in the ninth century, Archbishop Amulo writes that the following is the name that the Jews give to Jesus: “In their own language they call him ‘Ussum Hamizri,’ which is to say in Latin ‘Dissipator Ægyptius’ [the Egyptian Destroyer/Disperser].”

        1. On Jesus in Egypt, which is a probable Jewish response to the Christian story rather than an early independent datum, look up the various relevant works by Gustaf Dalman, Yaacov Deutsch and especially Peter Schafer. The emphasis was on the acquisition of “magic”.

    1. As I said in other comments, this hypothesis has also been made by me in my modest research on pagan roots of Christianity. I, however, consider the original gospel story entirely allegorical, which of course uses locations, characters and historical events. All the ancient theologies have been always allegorized with the creation of events and human characters.
      The allegory can explain those many passages of the gospels, that historiography can not explain.

    2. Reading the New Testament by itself only leads to the observation of a number of bizarre, or inexplicable, details.

      I think there are two ways of attempting to resolve such details. One way is to begin with the assumption that they are to explained within the framework of “what really happened behind the scenes?” That is, we begin with the assumption that the gospel narratives are derived from real events. The other way is to assess the oddities in the framework of similar literature of the day. There is little doubt that the Gospel of Mark is indeed written at two levels: it is loaded with symbolism, parables, metaphors. (The examples illustrating this point are very numerous.) The Gospel of John is also nonsense if read literally but conveys a very different message when read — as was surely intended — symbolically. Jesus is the vine; he turns water into wine; etc.

      The Gospels (at least Mark and John are) are written to be read in a way Jewish Scriptures themselves were often read and expounded (e.g. Dead Sea Scrolls, Rabbinic literature): with symbolic or hidden meanings that opened up the “wise” to the spiritual truth. We can see the evidence for this right beneath our noses as I try to point out with respect to the Mount of Olives setting a pointer to the David template. The Gospel of John even suppresses the that Mount of Olives reminder of a weak, helpless and tormented David. John’s Jesus is the totally-in-control divine figure.

      So if the Gospel of John has enough nous to suppress the Mount of Olives reference complete with a tormented Christ figure, would we expect the same text to somehow accidentally leave in a reference to a battle scene? Is not John’s theme one of contrast between two kingdoms: the earthly power and the heavenly? Do we not then see in the cohort marching to take Jesus a symbolic confrontation between the earthly power of Rome and the greater power of the Kingdom from heaven. Notice that those who came to arrest Jesus — even the great cohort — “fell to the ground” when Jesus demonstrated that he was in complete charge. He then takes control and tells them whom they are to arrest and whom to let free and they obey:

      John 18:

      Judas then, having received the [cohort] of soldiers, and officers from the chief priests and the Pharisees, cometh thither with lanterns and torches and weapons. 4 Jesus therefore, knowing all the things that were coming upon him, went forth, and saith unto them, Whom seek ye? 5 They answered him, Jesus of Nazareth. Jesus saith unto them, I am he. . . . 6 When therefore he said unto them, I am he, they went backward, and fell to the ground. 7 Again therefore he asked them, Whom seek ye? And they said, Jesus of Nazareth. 8 Jesus answered, I told you that I am he; if therefore ye seek me, let these go their way: 9 that the word might be fulfilled which he spake, Of those whom thou hast given me I lost not one. . . .

      12 So the [cohort] and the [chiliarch], and the officers of the Jews, seized Jesus and bound him

      Do we not have here a cogent explanation for the cohort coming to take Jesus that sits well within the larger theological message of John’s Gospel? Read this way, there is no “bizarre” problem to be solved. It is only bizarre if read literally and as if derived from real history.

      But the fact that this detail appears in the last written of the Gospels (so it is widely believed) adds support to this theological interpretation, does it not? It is absent from the earlier accounts. We would not expect it to be introduced so late if it was a vestige of historical memory.

      I think you have opened up many new questions and given a new perspective on the context of the Gospels. Some of the conclusions you yourself seem to draw, however, look to me like a hypothesis that needs testing. It is one thing to connect the dots and find a new pattern. I know you are well aware that the next step is to subject the way those dots have been joined to tests. That’s what I have attempted to do with the Mount of Olives and the cohort of Romans dots.

      1. John is a theological drama saturated with symbolism, and much of it could work well on stage, perhaps even the “soliloquies”. The deity in human form is progressively disclosed scene by scene. From a literary viewpoint it is quite an achievement. Curiously, the stranger on the shore in ch. 21 would be a nice modern movie touch.

      2. I would argue that a battle on the Mount of Olives is not absent from earlier accounts. See Luke 22:36-7: ‘He said to them, “But now, the one who has a purse must take it, and likewise a bag. And the one who has no sword must sell his cloak and buy one. For I tell you, this scripture must be fulfilled in me, ‘And he was counted among the lawless’; and indeed what is written about me is being fulfilled.”‘
        Additionally, in all four Gospels the use of swords on the Mount of Olives is mentioned.
        But it is always followed by a pacifist pronouncement.
        When a violent encounter in Josephus is closely analogous to something we read about in the Gospels or Acts, the violence, it seems, is suppressed — or countered — in the latter source. Compare, for instance, Antiquities 20.118-121 and War 2.232-235 with Luke 9:51-56. Although not as clear an analogy, the use of the words “a robbers’ den” might make it worth while also to compare Antiquities 20.165 with Mark 11:15-18 and Matthew 21:12-13.
        I absolutelye agree, every hypothesis needs testing!

        1. I think this is a very interesting point –

          “..in all four Gospels the use of swords on the Mount of Olives is mentioned.

          “But it is always followed by a pacifist pronouncement.

          When a violent encounter in Josephus is closely analogous to something we read about in the Gospels or Acts, the violence, it seems, is suppressed — or countered — in the latter source.”

        2. Further on my point about the “bizarre” character of the appearance of a cohort coming to arrest Jesus, the bizarre is typical in this gospel. The cohort’s appearance is countered by Jesus making them fall backwards — even more bizarre than the appearance of the cohort itself. The message appears to be the powerless of the world ruling power against the King of Kings.

          As for the Egyptian’s following, I was under the impression that they were unarmed (hence the promise to have the walls conveniently fall down before them) or at most armed with farming tools. There was not so much a fight but a massacre and flight.

          I don’t dispute what I think is a strong likelihood that the evangelists were in a kind of dialogue with the violent and chaotic events of the war and its prelude. That context no doubt influenced their selections of themes, motifs, images, etc. But at the same time those images, motifs were selected from the pool of Jewish Scriptures for theological ends. How can we know if they also derived from a specific occasion such as the Egyptian episode?

        3. Additionally, in all four Gospels the use of swords on the Mount of Olives is mentioned.
          But it is always followed by a pacifist pronouncement.

          Similarly in all four gospels John the Baptist plays an introductory role, but the different variants are best explained, I think, by responding to the first Gospel’s narrative. Mark appeared to be putting Jesus on a level incompatible with later Christologies. Ditto for the resurrection scenes, and more.

          Likewise we have Mark crudely introducing yet one more “embarrassing” detail about Jesus with the episode of an associate cutting off someone’s ear. No explanation is given in Mark. Matthew goes into damage control by explaining that Jesus didn’t really want that to happen and reminds readers of the Sermon on the Mount’s teachings. The question about where the swords came from in the first place was left hanging and Luke took up that one. John goes further by making it all very symbolic and spiritual. (Discussed in Deep Mystery.)

          This would explain the detail of the swords appearing in all four gospels. It’s always Mark’s fault.

          The original scene was likely inspired by Josephus’s detail about Antigonus and Hyrcanus.

          1. Neil, I am not disputing that there can be many interpretations of the texts, or that John is saturated with symbolism. What I am saying is that I don’t believe one should therefore automatically assume a statement in John is non-factual, non-historical, when it actually fits like the (almost) last piece in a historical puzzle. That’s just my point: In all four Gospels, and Acts, the symbolical/devotional/supernatural is completely mixed in with the historical. It’s not either/or, it’s both. And if there are so many coinciding elements between the tale of “the Egyptian” and that of Jesus, and if, on top of that, dozens of other parallels between the New Testament and Josephus point to a time shift, I find little reason to simply dismiss — or, rather, declare as non-historical — John’s statement that Jesus was met by a cohort of Roman soldiers on the Mount of Olives.

            1. I agree that it is wrong to “automatically assume a statement . . . is non-factual”. I have argued in the past that where we have no means of confirming whether X is non-factual or factual then agnosticism is the valid position.

              My approach to the gospels is to read them as literary constructs and the question of whether those literary constructs at any level represent either factual events or creative imagination is a question that needs to be argued, not assumed. But I’m not clear on how we escape confirmation bias if we go as far as saying the Gospels were rewriting the story of the Egyptian.

              1. This is always the risk, from whichever point of view we arrive. Non-traditionalists can be as entrenched as traditionalists. And the tendency to retain preconceived — or, for that matter, acquired — notions is something that seems to be hard-wired in our brains. Confirmation bias applies whether we look upon the Gospels as literary constructs or whether we look upon them as factual, and anything in between. I would argue that the risk is even greater with a field of study that is theological, as it touches upon core beliefs (whether we admit it or not).
                I will not claim to be any more free from confirmation bias than anyone else. I will only say that I was not looking for the time shift hypothesis, I wasn’t even thinking along those lines when I started my reading. I was pursuing an entirely different line of study. But yes, now I have this hypothesis. And so yes, confirmation bias may be a risk. That’s why it’s great to ventilate with other people, and get their reactions.

              2. On pp. 137-8, I have a fairly long discussion of how to evaluate the strength or weakness of each parallel (between the New Testament and Josephus): How many coinciding elements are there for each suggested parallel? How many diverging elements? How unique are the coinciding elements? To what extent do the different parallels form a pattern? And do the diverging elements for each parallel also form a pattern, i.e. do they co-vary?
                Now one may not be able to do a full statistical analysis on this kind of ancient data, but one should still keep those aspects in mind when evaluating the strength of a parallel. That should at least help us minimize confirmation bias.
                But, and we all know this, one can easily lie with statistics, if one chooses to simply ignore aspects which may speak against a thesis one explores. I have tried to avoid this by writing a chapter where I bring up and analyze the main possible arguments against my hypothesis (“Possible Arguments against a Time Shift”). I believe I have listed and discussed the most obvious ones (and would welcome any additional ones).
                What I’m not sure I understand, however, is your suggestion that confirmation bias would be a greater problem for someone comparing biblical texts with historical sources. Why would that kind of bias not be an equal problem for someone looking at other possible explanations — such as literary-theological ones? Confirmation bias, as I understand it, is our inclination to search for information that confirms our prexisting beliefs. That inclination is so fundamental (and so emotionally based) that I would call it the greatest impediment to truly open-minded science. No matter how intelligent we are, most of us are guided much more by our emotions than by our intellects. Or to quote an illusionist I once saw interviewed on television: “People think they believe what they choose to believe. We don’t. We mostly believe what we need to believe.”

              3. Confirmation bias can certainly plague any argument, I agree, and literary-theological explanations are no less immune than historical ones. What I was alluding to, however, are the various literary explanations for Gospel narrative details that are effectively beyond dispute such as when we have quite explicit links to other texts.

                Take John the Baptist as he appears in the earliest gospel, Mark. The author explicitly tells us that he is drawn from Malachi’s prophecy of an Elijah to come; and the physical portrait of him has been clearly taken from the Elijah appearance, location and life in 1 Kings: Mark 1:2, 6; 9:11-13; (If the Josephan passage on JtB is not an interpolation and represents real history then we might go further and say that the author of the Gospel of Mark has used that figure for a few details (name, baptising) but that he chose to “shift him to a different time” and give him a different (violent!) message so that the figure of Malachi and 1 Kings could be moulded from him. But I think we agree the authenticity of the Josephan passage is problematic.)

                The literary inspiration for Jtb is surely undeniable given the precise images clearly indebted to 1 Kings and the explicit identifications with the Malachi and 1 Kings figure. The subsequent portrayals of this JtB figure are cogently explained (through reference to their respective theological views) as responses to the Marcan figure. Luke’s details of the birth of JtB are all part and parcel of scenarios common in Luke that have been drawn from the “biblical days” of Genesis heroes — e.g. here and here.

                The parallels with Theudas are scarcely comparable. Theudas, in fact, is said to be attempting to re-enact the miracle of Joshua in parting or blocking the waters of the Jordan River. (Interestingly, though perhaps coincidentally, both Theudas and the Egyptian appear to be promising to replicate Joshua’s (=Jesus’) miracles.)

                We have explicit textual justifications for thinking JtB has been creatively sourced from Jewish Scriptures but we can only assume a possible connection to Theudas, I believe.

                Certainly there is a decapitation in common, but there is also a decapitation in common between the deaths of Agamemnon and John the Baptist. Dennis MacDonald cites six additional parallels in Homeric Epics and the Gospel of Mark.

                I think you are right to point to Theudas as part of a constellation of figures filling “Mark’s” mental images of the times and events to which he was responding but I don’t think we have the direct evidence for JtB being specifically modeled on Theudas as we do for his being created from Jewish Scriptures.

              4. I couldn’t agree more concerning the theological references in the New Testament — where there often are links to earlier scripture. I bring up another example of this in my reply to Joseph Atwill below (example 1., Fishing for men). But my point is that this literary-theological aspect is not always — or even most often — the ONLY parallel. What I say is: the New Testament is an incredibly intricately woven web, with multiple layers in the same text. And while one level is literary-theological, another one, I submit, is pure history. But whereas the literary-theological lies on the surface, the history is so cleverly woven into the fabric of the text that one has to marvel at it.
                In the example below, the fishing — and what one fishes for –goes back to eschatological pronouncement in Jeremiah, and other OT books. But when one looks closer, at Matthew 17:24-27, the fishing is here connected to the caustic, and highly political, issue of whether to pay taxes to the authorities. And, if so, how to pay these taxes.

                With regard to Theudas and John the Baptist: you dismiss the parallels between them as “scarcely comparable.” I think that’s done lightly.
                If we — for the time being — assume that Jesus and “the Egyptian” is the same person, then we have the following situation:
                1) The last messianic leader Josephus names before “the Egyptian” is Theudas. And he uses the same term to describe them (“goes”).
                3) Both Theudas and John the Baptist gather their followers by the Jordan river.
                4) Both Theudas and John the Baptist are attacked by the authorities.
                5) Both Theudas and John the Baptist are caught alive, but then decapitated. And the head is carried to the authorities.
                6) And last, but not least: There is not much logic in Herod Antipas having John the Baptist arrested, since John was not active in the area under Antipas’ jurisdiction (Galilee and Perea). The procurator who has Theudas arrested, however, is really the ruler of Judea, where both Theudas and John the Baptist were active.

              5. The reason I hold reservations about the “historical connection” with, say, John the Baptist, is because it is speculative while the literary connection is about as firmly grounded as anyone could ask for. To me that is a strong difference and reason for accepting one but holding the other in abeyance.

                The parallels you cite between Theudas and John the Baptist raise problems for me. I am used to assessing parallels in the light of multiple criteria proposed for some sort of relationship, and the necessity of several types of criteria being required to establish some form of dependency. (Three examples of criteria lists: http://vridar.org/2007/09/20/3-criteria-lists-for-literary-borrowing/)

                There are several issues to be addressed here and comment space is running out. Perhaps a post, as I suggested earlier, might be in order to address the question with a new start.

    3. Lena Einhorn wrote –

      “The conclusion I have drawn (after long hours comparing the New Testament with Josephus) is that the New Testament – or rather each Gospel, and Acts – is not one book but two. One telling the obvious story, one telling the hidden. And the hidden story is absolutely impossible to perceive unless one has the books of Josephus open.

      Reading the New Testament by itself only leads to the observation of a number of bizarre, or inexplicable, details. And since our brains like to have everything neat and tidy, we tend to ignore those details, put them aside, or, at most, explain them as mistakes …

      It is, I would argue, all part of the subtext, the other story. The one that is historical, but has to be veiled, albeit only partially.

      It seems that whenever the tale is disguised on one level, it is opened up on another.”

      Does this invoke the ‘Pesher Technique’ and arguments of Barbara Thiering?



        1. Cheers. It’s interesting Thiering also makes reference to Judas the Galilean. She thought Jesus was also the Wicked Priest in the Dead Sea Scrolls. Greg Douna thinks that ‘Antigonus Mattathias, the last Hasmonean king of Israel, executed by the Romans in 37 BCE, might be the figure underlying the Wicked Priest’ (pp. 95-107 of Gregory Doudna, ‘The Sect of the Qumran Texts and its Leading Role in the Temple in Jerusalem During Much of the First Century BCE: Toward a New Framework for Understanding’, in D. Stacey and G. Doudna, with a contribution from G. Avni, “Qumran Revisited: A Reassessment of the Archaeology of the Site and its Texts” [Oxford: Archaeopress, 2013].).

          Separately, do you think that aspects of Antigonus Mattathias’s story could have been incorporated in the NT-Jesus narrative?

          1. Do you mean if Jesus could have been modeled on Antigonus Mattathias? Or do you mean in some other way?
            In general, my tendency is to think of it like this: The Gospels and Acts are full of historical people — dignitaries that we find also in Roman historical sources. In fact, the Gospels — and especially Luke — are at pains to place Jesus in a historical setting. If the historical evidence allows it, my inclination is therefore to take them at their word: Jesus was part of that historical setting. Of course, if we can’t find him, I would think that a mythical or allegorical interpretation is reasonable. But if we do find him in first century non-biblical sources, and if the evidence is strong enough, I see no reason to prefer other explanations.

          2. I should be clearer, since I was not actually answering your question (as Antigonus Mattathias is also a historical person):
            My reason for suggesting that “the Egyptian” in War and Antiquities may be the same person as Jesus in the Gospels is not only the close parallels between their actions and locations. The more important reason is the many other parallels between Josephus and the New Testament, which — at least with regard to the ones I have found — in the vast majority of cases occur with a twenty year delay in Josephus (i.e. in the late 40s and 50s). A few, however, are closely analogous to events Josephus describes during the Jewish war. So far, however, outside of the mentioning of names, I have not found any parallels that Josephus places in the 30s.
            If you can find a similar picture — with numerous, and separate, analogies — between the New Testament and events other sources place during Hasmonean times, then sure, I would consider that very interesting.

          3. Hi Lena. Thank you for your considered replies.

            When you say you have “not found any parallels that Josephus places in the 30s”, do you mean the 30s bc/bce? ie. with regard to my question about whether some aspects of Antigonus Mattathias’s story could have been incorporated in the NT-Jesus narrative? eg. being King of the Jews executed in a power shift; possibly being crucified (although ‘record’ of that comes in the mid-late 2nd century from Cassius Dio’s ‘Roman History’ (Bk 49, chap. 22).

            ie. snippets or concepts that helped shape the narrative being written about the NT Jesus even if the NT Jesus is largely based on Josephus’s Egyptian.

            The setting of the NT Jesus in the 20s & early 30s ad/ce could have happened anytime after Josephus (Vinzent and Klinghardt are proposing the gospels were mostly written in the mid 2nd century after Marcion).

            1. No, I meant the 30s CE, when Jesus is supposed to have been active according to NT chronology. I was not looking for events in the late 40s and 50s CE, it simply was a repetitive occurrence that closely analogous events to those described in the Gospels and Acts popped up twenty years later in Josephus. The pattern was really quite striking. And yet it took me a long time to accept it, since it didn’t fit with what I was expecting.
              Just like I didn’t look for parallels in the 50s CE, I have also not looked for parallels in the 30s BC. I will not rule out that they exist, as my approach has not been to go through Josephus with a fine comb. I would however be surprised if you would find a similar consistent pattern there. Remember that this is not about one historical person with similarities to Jesus. This is about a pattern involving many separate incidents. Although most are in the 40s and 50s (when Theudas and “the Egyptian” were active), not all of them are, but all are during periods of lestai activity. And so far the only parallel I have found which is earlier than 44 CE in Josephus is the Census under Quirinius, in 6 CE (which also, as far as I can see, is the only closely analogous event that the Gospels place in the same era as Josephus does).
              So the short answer is: I have not come across parallels in the 30s BC, but that doesn’t mean that they don’t exist.

              1. Yes, I appreciate “this is not about one historical person with similarities to Jesus”; that you have highlighted a striking “pattern involving many separate incidents”; and, while “most are in the 40s and 50s (when Theudas and “the Egyptian” were active), not all of them are”.

                The NT gospels also reflect many OT passages around various OT entities. I wonder if they reflect snippets of Simon bar Kokhba and events around the revolt involving him, or of a pacifist Paul-like character.

                Besides the Census under Quirinius, in 6 CE, another parallel in Josephus which is earlier than 44 CE is, of course, Pilate.

                I also wonder to what extent, if any, that the Josephean texts have been edited or redacted later.

              2. No, I would argue that Pilate is not there as a valid parallel. The names of dignitaries from the 30s are there in both sources — Pilate, Annas, Caiaphas, Herod Antipas, etc. — but they don’t DO the same things! They do the things of LATER dignitaries in Josephus’s texts. The intriguing thing is that procurator Felix (52-ca.59 CE), as he is depicted by Josephus, in many ways bears stronger similarities to the Pilate of the Gospels, than Pilate himself! I have a whole chapter on them in the book, but briefly: it is (according to Josephus) Felix, not Pilate, who is a killer of Galileans; it is Felix, not Pilate, who has an open conflict with the Jewish king; it is Felix, not Pilate, who has an influential wife; it is Felix and Agrippa II, not Pilate and Herod Antipas, who share jurisdiction over Galilee; it is Felix, not Pilate, who crucifies Jews en masse; it is under Felix, not Pilate, that there is an open conflict between Galileans and Samaritans; it is under Felix, not Pilate, that there are to co-reigning high priests; it is during the time of Felix, not Pilate, that the robbers are active. That’s just the point: by shifting the names of dignitaries, the New Testament, I suggest, has shifted the time.

              3. Cheers Lena. What you say about the procurator Felix, ‘as he is depicted by Josephus’, bearing ‘stronger similarities to the Pilate of the Gospels, than Pilate himself’, is interesting.

                Jay Raskins has proposed that the Tacitus ‘Annals’ 15.44 passage has been doctored: he proposes it was originally about another procurator under Nero, Porcine Festus (a contemporary of Felix), and that Nero and his procurator were replaced with Tiberius and Festus, essentially also time-shifting that narrative from the 50s to the 20s/30s.


              4. I read that. Annals 15.44 is interesting, for several reasons. As it now stands, there are strange mistakes in it: Pilate was not procurator, he was prefect. And why would a Roman historian have given Jesus the name “Christus”, a theological term?

              5. Perhaps it was ‘Chrestus’ to align with the now proven Chrestianos in Annals 15.44? – that would align with Tacitus’s contemporary Suetonius using Chrestus in Claudius 25.4.

                The Egyptian deity Serapis was supposedly known as Christos or Chrestus.

    4. I’ve always been intrigued by the parallels between the gospels and the writings of Josephus. Although it seems that Luke’s reliance on Josephus is pretty well taken as granted, I have always thought that all the gospels reference Josephus. Have you written about the Jesus Ananias parallels? I know Theodore Wheeden found something like 22 parallels but felt there was no literary connection. To me, this story in Wars seems to be the blue print for the Passion story. Is this something you address?

    5. Those similarities are pale in comparison to that first century Madman Jesus Ben Ananius as described by Josephus in Jewish War, similarities between Passover narrative of Jesus and and Ben Ananius episode are just so striking that its looks really possible that Mark either copied that narrative at-least seems to be highly inspired by oral Stories of it…

      >Chart 1(Richard Carrier) – http://imgur.com/a/PK5d5

      >Chart 2(Neil Godfrey) – http://i.imgur.com/8pwyXSV.jpg

      Also that Olivet Discourse of Jesus is a deliberate echo of Zech 14:4 and throughout contains many allusions to Book of Zechariah so really there’s no good reason to think that its inspired by that Egyptian Messianic Claimant.

    6. Lena Einhorn has found a hidden doorway.
      The Egyptian has been totally overlooked by the mainstream ‘experts’.
      I truly think she has found something here.
      There is no small amount of jealousy here coming from these Scholars.
      Kudos Lena.
      I think you have found our man.

  2. Insightful, I think that we cannot say much more.
    As I also said, I make the hypothesis of a shift of 20 years forward and I would like to add another piece of news taken from Masonic sources.
    Before writing KRST, I wrote a fictional biography of a Neapolitan Mason: Raimondo de Sangro.
    Not to be verbose I will only say that this character gives a news, after reported also in the Masonic encyclopaedia, namely that a first Masonic sect dates back to the first century founded by an Egyptian character together with Mark, the evangelist, who created the first community in Alexandria.
    The Egyptian therefore returns from other sources, of which, however, I do not know the reliability. It is, in my view, a line of research to go through.

  3. …only one difference between the tale of “the Egyptian” and that of Jesus remains: the crucifixion. I discuss this in my book, where I bring up the curious release of Jesus Barabbas.

    Reading A Shift in Time, I have found this clue decisive and conclusive.

    In fact, it is said usually that Celsus accused Jesus to escape (Contra Celsum 2.9) because he was ”only” interpreting in a hostile manner the Gospel episode of Jesus weeping in Gethsemane and praying God to avoid him the next pain.

    And yet, precisely that episode that can be interpreted (by Celsus and by us) as an attempt to escape:

    Abba, Father,” he said, “everything is possible for you. Take this cup of suffering away from me. But let what you want be done, not what I want.”
    (Mark 14:36)

    …contains a word that is the key to know who is the man who manages to escape from his impending fate:

    Pilate wanted to satisfy the crowd. So he let Barabbas go free.

    (Mark 15:15)

    It is expected that if God is a real Abba for Jesus, then he answers his prayer and frees him in extremis. Why do you introduce ”Jesus Son of the Father”, then? Even the hypothesis of a midrash from Leviticus 16 cannot answer entirely to that question, since it does not explain the surprising occurrence of ‘Abba’ in Mark 14:36 .

  4. The stories about bandits, religious charlatans and rabble rousers in the later chapters of the works attributed to Flavius Josephus all employ the same literary model. The Testimonium Flavianum is a variation of this literary model.
    A table comparing Josephus’ stories about Rabble-Rousers (including the Egyptian) and Religious Charlatans to the Testimonium Flavianum can be found here:


    The author of Josephus’ stories about the Rabble-Rousers used Livy’s account of the Bacchanalian conspiracy as his literary model to narrate the activities of Judean desperadoes.
    The accompanying essay is here:


    A more extensive comparison of Josephus’ accounts of Judean trouble makers and the literary relationship of these accounts to the Testimonium Flavianum is here:


    A very detailed table showing all of the Bandit accounts in the works of Flavius Josephus that are related to the TF is here:


    The bandit narrations in Josephus are written in two distinct styles which bears out H. St. John Thackeray’s contention that Josephus had two different Greek speaking assistants or co authors.
    Josephus’ use of a repetitive narrative element is also found in the New Testament. The same narrative format is used over and over again in the Gospel of Mark, and the derivative texts in Luke and Matthew, to describe miraculous healings. It looks as if the NY authors were reusing the same basic story over and over again when ever their main narrative called for a miracle healing.
    The miracle stories are compared here


    The essay discussing the comparison table is here:


    As far as I know Flavius Josephus and the New Testament are the only 1st century Greek texts that contain internal pericopes or narratives that use a recurring or recycled literary format. To me this suggests the various authors were creating quick and messy filler to pad their over all narrations, and make it look as if they had more information than they actually did.

  5. The most important point of the posting above is the table which compares Josephus’ parallel stories about trouble makers with the Testimonium Flavianum and the story about John the Baptist.
    These all take place in the later chapters of Josephus’ works.
    I think these accounts in Jewish War and Antiquities were written by Josephus’ assistants who spoke Greek, who also were acquainted with Latin literature because of the parallels with Livy. It is doubtful that Josephus read Livy’s voluminous History of Rome in Latin.

    The narrations about strong men with royal pretensions written in biblical sounding language were probably written by Josephus himself (https://rogerviklund.wordpress.com/2014/07/21/rebels-bandits-frauds-charlatans-and-other-wicked-men-in-the-works-of-flavius-josephus/#_edn3). They emphasize the men’s physical attributes and pass moral judgement and do not resemble Livy’s account of the Bacchanalian Conspiracy.

    1. Parallels regarding historical personalities do not always imply copying unless the details and style show close textual resemblances. (Cf. Alan Bullock’s “Hitler and Stalin” [1998] – only a penny from Amazon, folks!)

  6. The evidence of the time shift seems overwhelming to me and needs an explanation. Isn’t the obvious explanation, well … obvious (apologies to those who may have already said this).

    Jesus was NOT the Egyptian but his story was modeled on the Egyptian. That is, when Mark came to write his Gospel he had little or no information about Palestine except what he read in Josephus, so he used all the details and ideas he could from Josephus. There were two high priests in Josephus, at a time later than Pilate’s time, so Mark puts in two high priests in Pilate’s time. There were bandits, revolutionaries and crucifixions in Josephus, but not in Pilate’s time, so Mark put them in in Pilate’s time. And Jesus in front of Pilate is modeled on Jesus of Jerusalem, silent in front of the later Governor, and so on. Other Gospel writers did the same.

  7. We have the author of Mark writing as little as twenty or a dozen years after the appearance of The Egyptian, perhaps even with a personal recollection thereof, but at least almost certainly with access to one if not both of Josephus’ accounts of The Egyptian. Occam’s Razor indicates that the source of the many parallels between the Jesus of the Gospels and The Egyptian, is the latter himself. Nor is ‘Mark’, in their allegorical tale, constrained to exactly pattern Jesus in every detail after The Egyptian — much as a modern movie can be more or less loosely ‘based on a true story.’

    To range further afield for sources for these Egyptian-y elements, thus being obliged to dismiss the many parallels with The Egyptian as sheer coincidence, seems but special pleading to preserve a purely mythical Jesus.

    I do agree that neither The Egyptian nor any solitary figure can be identified as “THE” original Jesus, rather is but one of the many pieces used to “construct” the fictive Jesus of the Gospels.

    1. If you think that all is reducible to midrash & theology, do you know which is a plausible theological/midrashic point behind the two-swords logion (Luke 22:38) ?

  8. So if the Gospel of John has enough nous to suppress the Mount of Olives reference complete with a tormented Christ figure, would we expect the same text to somehow accidentally leave in a reference to a battle scene?

    If the reference to a battle scene was deliberate (Lena’s view in the comment above), then an alternative explanation is that John had a remembered Jesus in view here, even if as hidden subtext (even if a seditious Jesus) for only insiders?

  9. I think that the criticism of Neil would work only if the thesis he confutes is that Mark is a mere apology of a seditious Jesus (i.e. meant to hidden entirely any traces of sedition). But Lena is saying that Mark is not entirely an apology, as, in her view, Mark remembers implicitly – as deliberate subtext for only insiders – the disturbing figure of the “the Egyptian”, by all these parallels.

    1. I think this is a good place to introduce Occam’s Razor. If we have a satisfactory theological explanation for otherwise “bizarre” details within the text then why introduce additional explanations beyond the text — especially if that additional explanation raises further questions in relation to all the Gospels?

      1. I have – or at least, I think I have – a satisfactory theological explanation for a lot of ”bizzarre” Gospel details, but I recognize that I have not a good tehoogical reason to explain enigmatic passages as the swords-logion of Luke 22:38 or the presence of ‘Abba’ in Mark 14:36 (echoing both Barabbas and the possibility of an escape). Therefore I don’t realize consequently the utility of Occam about these cases (if not as evidence of Lena’s theory).

  10. I’m not sure if this was mentioned in a comment on an earlier thread regarding this book, but if the premise is that Jesus was actually “the Egyptian” referenced by Josephus (who placed him in the 50’s AD/CE), how does this treat the letters of Paul? Aside from the views that they may all have been late forgeries, the “authentic” letters are generally also placed in the 50’s, and reference that he’d converted well over a decade earlier. It seems pretty basic that if there were Christians and ministries that pre-dated the Egyptian, then he could not have been the “original” Jesus. But it’s quite possible that the Egyptian was one of the literary influences upon the literary character of Jesus of Nazareth created by Mark, as my understanding is that there are other references from Josephus’ Jewish Wars that seem to have influenced/informed/inspired events in the gospel of Mark. I’m pretty sure I’ve read that there was a man named Jesus whose trial and execution are documented in the Jewish Wars and that there are parallels in Mark that suggest he was using this to help construct his narrative of Jesus’ trial; if Mark drew upon Josephus’ other Jesus to help tell the story about his Jesus, why wouldn’t/couldn’t he have used Josephus’ Egyptian as well in the same regard?

    1. Humankind has been conditioned to believe the NT story is based on events in the 20s & 30s ad/ce, including the story of Paul, and that there were ‘Christians and ministries’ soon after. Have we been duped?

      When you say “I’m pretty sure I’ve read that there was a man named Jesus whose trial and execution are documented in the Jewish Wars”, are you thinking of Jesus ben Ananias? ‘Jewish Wars’ Bk 6, chap 5, section 3?

      Bible commentator Adam Clarke has noted how Jesus ben Ananias’s words, as recorded by Josephus, relate to Isaiah 66:6. “A voice of noise in the city, a voice from the temple, a voice of the LORD that rendereth recompense to his enemies.”

    2. if Mark drew upon Josephus’ other Jesus to help tell the story about his Jesus, why wouldn’t/couldn’t he have used Josephus’ Egyptian as well in the same regard?
      Very a good question. But I would know the answer.

      So Theodore Weeden :

      This modeling of Jesus-Ananias after the prototypical suffering servant
      comes through most clearly, in my view, in the depiction of Jesus-Ananias’
      Jewish and Roman hearings. Of particular note is the motif of
      Jesus-Ananias’ silence, aside from his incessant harangue, before his
      antagonists in the hearings, a silence motif indigenous to the Isaianic
      suffering servant, but not a formal component of the genre of the persecuted
      righteous/innocent one vindicated. This typological casting of
      Jesus-Ananias as an Isaianic suffering servant cannot be accidental, any
      more than it is accidental that Mark depicts Jesus of Nazareth as the ideal
      Isaianic suffering servant.
      Nor, I submit, is it accidental that both the
      story of the passion and death of Jesus of Jerusalem and the Markan story of
      the passion and death of Jesus of Nazareth employ the same genre for
      portraying their respective Jesuses as persecuted righteous/innocent
      suffering servants who were vindicated by God. They are intertextually
      connected, not just via individual parallels, as I proposed earlier, but
      also via genre.
      (my bold)

      Weeden is saying that Mark had a precise theological reason to cast Jesus-Ananias in Jesus of Nazareth. But which is the theological point behind the presumed Mark’s use of “the Egyptian” from Josephus?

      Note the differences:
      1) Jesus-Ananias was maybe an invention of Josephus (or of his source), according to Weeden, while “the Egyptian” existed.
      2) Jesus-Ananias is playing the part of the Suffering Servant of Isaiah in Josephus (and alludes to destruction of Jerusalem: motives liked by Mark), while “the Egyptian” is playing the part of a mere terrorist and sorcerer.
      3) Jesus-Ananias (and any midrash about him) is basically innocuous to the Romans, while “the Egyptian” (and any midrash about him) is disturbing to the ears of the Romans.

      This is why I think that, once you accept as real parallels those found by Lena between Jesus and “the Egyptian”, then the more logical conclusion is that a historical Jesus existed and was “the Egyptian”.

    3. The proposition is, there was no “original Jesus” — at least not a single, flesh & blood man. You can have James speaking c. AD 40 of a Joshua redivivus coming down from Heaven on a cloud, and Paul c. 50 claiming to be in spiritual contact with Jesus, Simon Magus around the same time (& the same person??) claiming to be possessed by the spirit of Jesus, and only later have the biographical details of a real-life messianic claimant c. 52-58 grafted onto those conflated traditions.

      1. But if ‘the Egyptian’ was “grafted onto those comflated traditions,” we would in the Gospels have expected Jesus to be overtly presented as having been active under procurator Felix, wouldn’t we? And we would have had the Gospels present Jesus as a recent arrival from Egypt, no? And we would have had all those 30s dignitaries (Herod Antipas, Caiaphas, Pilate, etc.) exchanged for 50s dignitaries, wouldn’t we?
        The story of ‘the Egyptian’ is no “overlayering” onto something. It is a subtext, a hidden story. Something that was not supposed to be seen. It is deliberately and meticulously put there.

        1. Or the 50’s dignitaries were exchanged for 30’s ones, for some hidden reason.

          Matthew presents Jesus as having come from Egypt, but as an infant or toddler. This strikes me as a ploy to distance the Jesus of the gospel from the messianic Jesus everyone remembered or had heard of — who’d arrived from Egypt as an adult.

          1. Exactly.
            But then Matthew states (3:1) that at the same time as Jesus returns, John the Baptist starts preaching … They are the same age …
            To my mind, this is either a deliberate attempt to provide clues to another story — of an adult return from Egypt. Or, alternatively, Matthew’s, and Mark’s, chronology were altered retroactively (from the 40s and 50s), by changing the names of dignitaries (and adding that Jesus returned as a child).
            Either way, the return from Egypt is not “clean” in Matthew.

  11. Yes, I believe that is the “other” Jesus I was thinking of (thanks!).

    Regarding dating NT stories, though the Gospels take place during the time of Pilate (20’s & 30’s) I recognize that could be no more than a literary construction for the author’s purpose, and regarding “Christians and ministries,” I simply mean that some existed (such as Paul referencing the Jerusalem Church), not necessarily that they were proliferate (if Paul was writing in the 50’s as he traditionally is believed to have, and claims that he converted nearly two decades earlier, that would place Christians in the 30’s).

    1. I understand that it has been deduced that Paul converted in the 30’s, soon after Jesus (of Nazareth) had been crucified, based on the NT gospels and a passage (or two) in the Pauline letters [I can’t recall which].

      But it’s all smoke & mirrors: these are unverified narratives loosely based on each other, so I think it is likely, as you flag, these texts are “no more than a literary construction” (for *the redactors* purposes).

      1. Again, NT chronology is built on the names of dignitaries presented. For the time shift hypothesis, a greater problem with Paul, as I see it, is that if he appears in the mid-50s, rather than the 30s, and if he subsequently is active for twenty or twenty-five years before his trial in Jerusalem, the whole theory would fall to shreds, as there practically speaking was no Jerusalem after 70 CE, and certainly no functioning Jewish infrastructure. I deal with this at length in my book, in the chapter “Possible arguments against a time shift.”

        1. I’m not sure the whole time-shift hypothesis/theory falls apart on the basis that Paul’s time frame is dependent on what is commonly known or asserted about it and dependent on being relative to the gospel time-frame. It’s almost as if the Pauline narrative is mostly parallel to the gospel narrative/s and the they have been merged together later.

          An interesting aspect of Paul is the Acts 21 passage where, as he is being being brought to the barracks after being arrested by the tribune, Paul is asked by the tribune:

          37 …”Do you know Greek? 38 Are you not the Egyptian, then, who recently stirred up a revolt and led the four thousand men of the Assassins out into the wilderness?” (ESV)

          Then, somewhat unusually, Paul is allowed to again speak to the crowd who had just been beating him (they “were seeking to kill him” Acts 21:31; and had just cried out to the tribune & soldiers “Away with him!” v.36).

          1. I don’t believe it falls apart either, because I think there is an explanation. But that discussion is long.

            Yes, Acts 21:38 is exceptionally interesting.

  12. Hi Lena,

    I was curious of your opinion of Josephus’s parallel to the Gospels’ crucifixion story I discovered and presented in Caesar’s Messiah and is all the rage on the internet. Note that the name of the Gospels’ “good counselor” – Joseph of “Arimathea” – is obviously a play on words of Titus’ “good counselor” – Joseph bar Matthias.

    “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.”
    Life of Flavius Josephus, 75, 417, 420-421


    1. Hi Joe,
      it is no doubt interesting that the reading of the New Testament has sparked so many comparisons with other sources, and that the “veiled” nature of the parallels seems to be a constant. The best explanation I can come up with is that the New Testament calls out for it, that the reader intuitively perceives the multi-layered character of the narrative, that it all happens in times of documented history, and that Jesus, despite this, is historically elusive. One wants to solve the riddle. I am not claiming to have solved it, or that other theories are less valid. I think what we can do is to present the evidence, let others evaluate it, and then perhaps participate in the discussion.
      With regard to your question above: I do think that perhaps Josephus is present in the NT narrative, and I discuss it in my book (pp. 163-4). I have not, until now, thought of Joseph of Arimathea as being identical to Josephus. He is definitely identical to someone, however. And irrespective of whether it happened to Jesus, the crucifixion story stands for something. The parallel you mention is interesting, and well worth thinking about.

      1. Hugh J. Schonfield, “The Passover Plot” (1965/2004) noted the verbal similarity of a Iosepos, (son) of Matthias, begging for the bodies of three crucified victims, one of which survives.

        “Ari-mathea” could also come from “best disciple”. See also Joseph as spice-provider at

        Even the RC scholar Raymond Brown observed the successive embellishment of the NT burial accounts.

        The various origins of “Iscariot” are equally interesting – maybe narratives themselves grew from (ambiguous?) names, nicknames or labels, rather than (always) vice versa. (Robin Hood and his merry men, likewise?)

        Nevertheless, such points do not exclude the possibility that Jesus was a real person, who in the case of the “Egyptian” was seen by Jews, from Trypho to Toledot, as a cunning magician not a complete myth. Barbara Theiring claims that “Egypt” was a code-name for Qumran; the idea that Jesus had some Essene (“healer”) background during the “missing years” however could also point to the Therapeutae in Egypt itself.

        I am not convinced by a Jesus=Paul identification.

        1. As I mentioned in an earlier comment in this post, there are quite a few sources — polemic as well as Christian — who later discuss the tradition that Jesus came from Egypt as an adult, having learned “magic” there.
          That would point to an actual long-term visit to Egypt.

          1. The idea of Jesus going to Egypt need not reflect an event that actually happened, but may just reflect an ancient archetype that the wise man went to Egypt to learn wisdom and magic. For instance, both Plato and Pythagoras, identified as icons of Greek philosophy, stated that they and other great Greek philosophers had studied and learned that knowledge in Egypt. Many had studied many years at Egyptian schools, to return to Greece as the “first philosophers”.

            see this short article: http://philipcoppens.com/egyptgreece.html

  13. Those similarities are pale in comparison to that first century Madman Jesus Ben Ananius as described by Josephus in Jewish War, similarities between Passover narrative of Jesus and and Ben Ananius episode are just so striking that its looks really possible that Mark either copied that narrative at-least seems to be highly inspired by oral Stories of it…

    >Chart 1(Richard Carrier) – http://imgur.com/a/PK5d5

    >Chart 2(Neil Godfrey) – http://i.imgur.com/8pwyXSV.jpg

    Also that Olivet Discourse of Jesus is a deliberate echo of Zech 14:4 and throughout contains many allusions to Book of Zechariah so really there’s no good reason to think that its inspired by that Egyptian Messianic Claimant.

  14. Hi Lena,

    I am curious. Do you consider the importance of sequence in the parallels between the Gospels and Josephus? Sequence was clearly part of the use of parallels in the Gospels as, for example, in the Moses/Jesus typology in Jesus’s preministry in Matthew.

    Comparing the sequences of events Josephus and the Gospels reveals many heretofore-unseen parallels. Below are a few you might find amusing.

    1) Fishing for men.
    While at the Sea of Galilee, Jesus predicted that his followers would fish for men.
    “From now on you will catch men.” Luke 5:10

    Titus’ followers then fish for men on the Sea of Galilee.
    “And for such as were drowning in the sea, if they lifted their heads up above the water, they were either killed by darts, or caught by the vessels.” Wars of the Jews, 3, 10, 527

    2) Binding and Loosening
    . . . “And I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.” Matt 16:14-19

    “O father, it is but just that the scandal [of a prisoner] should be taken off Josephus, together with his iron chain. For if we do not barely loose his bonds, but cut them to pieces, he will be like a man that had never been bound at all.” Wars of the Jews, 4, 10, 628-629

    3) Divide three to two
    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


    1. Hi Joe,
      Interesting examples. Like you, I believe there is a strong subtext in the NT narratives, and especially in Luke/Acts. I believe almost every word in Luke is there for a reason — that is often not merely theological. The question is: what is this subtext? About this one may of course have different opinions.

      1) The first example you bring up — the fishing for men — is one that I also discuss in my book, on pages 69-70. When Mark 1:16-17 and Luke 5:10 have Jesus say to the disciples (who in this case are fishermen) that they will from now on “fish for people,” this of course must mean something. I first of all see it in the context of eschatological texts in the Old Testament. Jeremiah 16:16 says: “I am now sending for many fishermen, says the Lord, and they shall catch them [the people of Israel].” The text says that the reason for this catching and hunting of the people of Israel is that they have forsaken God, and will therefore suffer calamities. But ultimately, “I will restore them to their own land which I gave to their fathers.” Similar pronouncements on “men like the fish of the sea” are seen in Amos 4:2 and Habakkuk 1:14-17. So not only are the fish people, but the catching of them seems to have an eschatological meaning.

      Is there in addition to this also a concrete meaning? Are there any actual people/fish that the disciples are supposed to catch? Well, perhaps. Matthew 17:24-27 deals with the question of whether Jesus and his disciples should pay taxes (a very sensitive issue, especially among the robbers/rebels, and one that that had sparked the rebellion under Quirinius). The section ends with Jesus telling Peter that they are free (not to pay the tax). But then he adds: “However, so that we do not give offense to them, go to the sea and cast a hook; take the first fish that comes up; and when you open its mouth, you will find a coin; take that and give it to them for you and me.”
      This is mostly interpreted to mean that Peter the fisherman should pay part of his income from fishing to the authorities.
      But what if the fish are people? What, then, does that mean? And if the person caught has a coin in his mouth, what, then, does that mean?
      Well, either it means that a fish is just a fish. Or it means that Peter should make someone else pay the tax. Which often was the modus operandi among the rebels/robbers.

      The parallel that you suggest — where during the Jewish war the Romans kill Jews on the Sea of Galilee — does not make the Jewish fishermen the catchers, but rather the opposite. They are the hunted ones.

      2) Are you suggesting that the meaning is that Peter and Josephus is the same person? I don’t think chains and keys are specific or unique enough to make this a good parallel. But that’s my opinion.

      3) Interesting. This is the kind of sentence in Luke that sounds like a riddle, calling out to be interpreted. But it doesn’t sound like “three being decimated to two.” It sounds like one previously unified house (nation? group?) will now enter into a kind of civil war, where three groups will be on one side, and two on the other. It gets your mind churning though. Perhaps it pertains to Jewish groupings during the war against Rome? Or rebels against establishment before the war? Time to think …

  15. Compare the case of Bermejo-Rubio with that of Lena Einhorn.

    The first sees that the Gospel Jesus reflects a generic set of men in Josephus (seditious rebels) and only in virtue of that reason he thinks he is legitimated to apply the CoI on the Gospels to rebuild his HJ.

    Lena Einhorn sees that the Gospel Jesus reflects a particular individual in Josephus (”the Egyptian”) and thinks she is legitimated to apply the CoI on the Gospels to rebuild his HJ.

    I think that Lena is more decisively legitimated than Bermejo-Rubio to apply the CoI on the Gospels. But what I don’t know still now is the answer to this precise question:

    Should the Criterion of Embarrassment Be Dismissed in Jesus Research?

    I hope prof Bermejo-Rubio may help to clear better his real efficacy or less, once Lena has convinced me that we are legitimated to consider it. If the CoI definitively is useless to test the thesis of Einhorn, then her argument remains basically incomplete.

    1. Hi Giuseppe,
      Bermejo-Rubio’s article, that you refer to, is not available online. Could you clarify the question, or issue, you pose above a bit?

      1. Hi Lena,
        the CoE is devalued recently because very often something that is apparently embarrassing (in the gospel material) possesses a theological reason that overcomes the embarrassment.
        Against this devaluation, Prof Bermejo-Rubio means in his article (not yet published) to demonstrate that the CoE is still useful when applied to the gospels.
        In my comment above I mean only that you are more legitimated (than a Brandon, Maccoby etc) to use the CoE than others (if a CoE is to be applied), because your hypothesis deserves to be tested.

        1. Ok. Not having gone into the recent discussion on the Criterion of Embarrassment, I’m still not so sure that the historical narrative that I suggest is present in the (subtext of the) Gospels and Acts is there because of the CoE. The underlying story, to my mind, is so complete, and the details are provided whether they were widely known or not (i.e. whether they “had” to be provided or not).
          I suspect that the historical narrative in the NT subtext is there because the authors wanted to be true to themselves. That it is there because they struggled with a dilemma: whether to provide embarrassing (!) details that might make the founding story less compelling, or whether to tell it like it was. So they did both.
          Thus, what I am suggesting is actually that they to a large extent avoided the details of embarrassment, and provided them in the subtext only to be true. Not because they had to. That they provided them because they wanted a real documentation of their struggle — in other words the same motivation that guided Josephus and Justus of Tiberias.
          Does that make sense?

          1. I understand. Basically, you are saying that the inventors of the Gospel Jesus only had to worry about applying the ”shift time” successfully, and for the rest they would be absolutely free to remember ”the Egyptian” in the way they wanted to, because no one **except them** knew the truth and not being able to identify the Jesus Gospel with ”the Egyptian”, could not therefore denounce them (to the Romans).

            It makes sense…

            But in the book you admit that Celsus and the authors of the Talmud (those writing about Jesus ben Stada) knew something of the truth about the seditious character of the true ”Jesus”, something independent from the Gospels. So if even Celsus suspected somehow that the real ”Jesus” was ”the Egyptian”, then some embarrassment in the Gospels would be transpired even after the shift time application, do you agree?

            Therefore I conclude that the best way to test your hypothesis (Jesus=”The Egyptian”) is to verify the presence of (*expected*, if what I have written above is correct?) embarrassing details in the Gospels, that is equivalent to verify the validity of the CoE on the Gospel material about what prof Bermejo-Rubio calls ”disiepta membra of sedition”.

            1. You are right, in Jewish sources the knowledge of Jesus having come back from Egypt as an adult seems to have survived (picked up by Celsus, described in the Talmud, and seemingly also in the Toldoth Yeshu). Ninth century archbishop Amulo even writes that “in their own language they call him Ussum Hamizri, which is to say in Latin Dissipator Aegyptius.” And Arnobius of Sicca, a third/fourth century convert to Christianity, wrote: “My opponent will perhaps meet me with many other slanderous and childish charges which are commonly urged. Jesus was a Magician; he effected all these things by secret arts. From the shrines of the Egyptians he stole the names of angels of might, and the religious system of a remote country.”
              I have, however, not seen any text in these early sources alleging that there was a shift in time in the New Testament. So perhaps knowledge of the actual timepoint when Jesus “brought magic from Egypt” did not survive, or it was simply assumed to have happened in the time of Pilate. Don’t forget that the Jewish War meant the almost complete destruction of Jewish society in the area where it all happened. Furthermore, the contents of the New Testament were probably not known until much later. So the oral tradition of Jesus being called Dissipator Aegyptius, and of his having arrived from Egypt as an adult, most likely survived independently of the New Testament.
              I of course welcome any test of the time shift hypothesis. I’m personally not sure, however, if the Criterion of Embarrassment would be the decisive approach. As I mentioned in an earlier post, I think that one has to look at this data through a statistical prism. With that I do not mean that one can apply pure statistics on this material. But I believe one can determine likelihoods, by looking at the uniqueness of the elements in the parallels, the consistency of the patterns produced, and last, but not least, the strength of alternative explanations. I discuss this in the book.

              1. Sincerely, at moment my only criticism about your thesis (assuming it is true) is that I think that the author of Acts didn’t know the truth about the true identity of the Gospel ‘Jesus’. At best, Acts knows only rival (Jewish?) rumors about that identity and tries to exorcise them citing for example ”the Egyptian” in a episode regarding Paul.

                I think that the real inventor (if an inventor is to be at all) of the after-”shift time”-Jesus is uniquely the author of the first Gospel (”Mark”). The late Christian autors were were only reacting to Mark, each with their own different theologies, without no knowledge at all of the secret identity Jesus=”The Egyptian”. The error of the book would be, in my opinion, to see the authors of the Gospels and Acts as a ”single block”, when in fact they were books from different communities and theologies (often even rivals among them).

                In short: I like consider your thesis assuming only ‘Mark’ alone as the real artifex of the shift-time conspiracy!

              2. Lena,

                About the perception of Jesus as *alien* to Judaism (the point of being called ”Egyptian”) I notice a curious parallel with another thing considered *alien* to Jews in Josephus.

                So Josephus:

                But now Pilate, the procurator of Judea, removed the army from Cesarea to Jerusalem, to take their winter quarters there, in order to abolish the Jewish laws. So he introduced Caesar’s effigies, which were upon the ensigns, and brought them into the city; whereas our law forbids us the very making of images; on which account the former procurators were wont to make their entry into the city with such ensigns as had not those ornaments. Pilate was the first who brought those images to Jerusalem, and set them up there; which was done without the knowledge of the people, because it was done in the night time; but as soon as they knew it, they came in multitudes to Cesarea, and interceded with Pilate many days that he would remove the images; and when he would not grant their requests, because it would tend to the injury of Caesar, while yet they persevered in their request, on the sixth day he ordered his soldiers to have their weapons privately, while he came and sat upon his judgment-seat, which seat was so prepared in the open place of the city, that it concealed the army that lay ready to oppress them; and when the Jews petitioned him again, he gave a signal to the soldiers to encompass them routed, and threatened that their punishment should be no less than immediate death, unless they would leave off disturbing him, and go their ways home. But they threw themselves upon the ground, and laid their necks bare, and said they would take their death very willingly, rather than the wisdom of their laws should be transgressed; upon which Pilate was deeply affected with their firm resolution to keep their laws inviolable, and presently commanded the images to be carried back from Jerusalem to Cesarea.
                (Antiquities 18:55-62)

                My suggestion: prove to replace the foreign ‘images’ (insignia) with the foreign ”Egyptian” and you have basically the Gospel story:

                Very early in the morning, the chief priests, with the elders, the teachers of the law and the whole Sanhedrin, made their plans. So they bound Jesus, led him away and handed him over to Pilate. “Are you the king of the Jews?” asked Pilate. “You have said so,” Jesus replied. The chief priests accused him of many things. So again Pilate asked him, “Aren’t you going to answer? See how many things they are accusing you of.” But Jesus still made no reply, and Pilate was amazed. Now it was the custom at the festival to release a prisoner whom the people requested. A man called Barabbas was in prison with the insurrectionists who had committed murder in the uprising. The crowd came up and asked Pilate to do for them what he usually did. “Do you want me to release to you the king of the Jews?” asked Pilate, knowing it was out of self-interest that the chief priests had handed Jesus over to him. But the chief priests stirred up the crowd to have Pilate release Barabbas instead. “What shall I do, then, with the one you call the king of the Jews?” Pilate asked them.
                “Crucify him!” they shouted. “Why? What crime has he committed?” asked Pilate. But they shouted all the louder, “Crucify him!” Wanting to satisfy the crowd, Pilate released Barabbas to them. He had Jesus flogged, and handed him over to be crucified.

                (Mark 15:1-15)

                See the parallels:

                1) the insignia are put during the ”night”. Jesus is condemned by pharisees during the ”night”.

                2) Pilate tries for three times to persuade the Jews to accept the insignia. Pilate tries for three times to persuade the Jews to accept Jesus.

                3) the second attempt by Pilate to persuade the crowd is an appeal to the emperor, in Josephus. It is an appeal to king Herod, in Luke.

                4) the third attempt by Pilate to persuade the crowd is a threat of violence, in Josephus. An appeal to an exchange with Barabbas, in the Gospel, a man who is symbol (and threat) of violence.

                5) Withouth to mention the surprising thing that the Jews – unique case in all their history – succeed in persuading Pilate at least that time. In which other time the Jews were able to dissuade the sadistic Pilate himself from his intentions? Only, we are told, in the gospel.

                6) a possible solution of these parallels is that the ‘insignia’ and ”te Egyptian” share a thing in common in front of the Jews of Jerusalem: they are basically ALIEN to them. Both they were repulsed and considered foreign. To be labeled ”Egyptian” is an insult, for the Jews.

              3. Hi Giuseppe,
                Assuming that the time shift hypothesis is correct, I know that I have found only a fraction of the parallels. In fact, very often when I read Josephus — at least when I did it more carefully — I found something new. In the end I had to stop, or the book would never have gone to the printer’s. So it’s open for anyone to start digging and comparing. And for everyone else to evaluate the result.

                The parallel you present is interesting, but the allegorical, non-realistic, element would in this case be in Josephus’s text (a person, “the Egyptian”, being metaphorically presented as insignia). In my experience, if anything has been metaphorical in a parallel, that has usually been located in the NT. Also, up until now, I have found no parallels which were in the time of Pilate in both sources (and “the Egyptian” was not).

                But again, this is fair game, and I am not the judge of what is a true parallel, and what is not. I would really encourage everyone who is interested to look for themselves. I think there is a lot more to be found.

                With regard to your earlier comment: I am curious, why do you believe Mark is the holder of all the clues? I have until now found Luke/Acts to be the primary teller of the “other” story. What is it about Mark that leads you to suggest he is more informed? That he (presumably) was first?

              4. These posts are an interesting discussion!

                The issue of the Synoptic problem seems to being raised – I wonder if the Triple Tradition Hypothesis is applicable.

              5. Possibly the notion of Jesus being interrogated as possible God, came from images of Caesar being similarly offered. And like Jesus, refused.

                Maybe not just the importance of the Egyptian, but the godhood of Caesar, were melded together by confused earlier compilers. Who had no idea of an accurate timeline. Or which Lord wannabe, was which.

  16. Hi Lena,

    Very good questions and I will answer them but may I test your patience by citing one more parallel, as if you see it as potentially deliberate this will shorten my response? First, note that all of the fifty parallels I present in Caesar’s Messiah are in a sequence. (This will have an interesting analytic value if enough are accepted as deliberate.) So I am curious as to your opinion of the parallel conclusions to the Gospels and the siege of Jerusalem.

    The Gospel of John concludes with a discussion between Simon (Peter) and Jesus. Jesus foresees that Simon will be bound and carried “where you do not wish to go.” Jesus also tells Simon that he will have a martyr’s death, “to glorify God.” In the midst of this discussion, “the disciple that Jesus loved,” clearly meaning the Apostle John, appears. Simon asks Jesus what the fate of John is to be. Jesus replies, “It is my will that he remain.” The passage then points out that John “is the disciple who is bearing witness to these things, and who has written these things” referring to the Gospel of John itself.
    Below is the entire passage. Notice how the author 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

    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.78

    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.79

    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
    6) In each, Simon “follows”

    Further, the two events continue the theme of a prophecy made in one work being fulfilled in the other. In other words, what Jesus predicts, Josephus records as having “come to pass.”


    1. Hi Joe, this is a little bit like the blind leading the blind … Perhaps we should read each others books … I also deal with Simon bar Giora and John of Gischala, and their defeats, in my book, in the chapter “The mad man from Gerasa.” And I deal with a suggested historical identity for Peter, in the chapter “Ananias and Peter.”
      I have arrived at different interpretations than you. Which doesn’t mean that one of us is right and the other wrong.

    2. This is an admittedly striking “parallel”.

      Convincing tests must indicate connection, chronology and motive as well as some similarity. Names like John, Jacob, Simon and Jesus were hardly rare at that period.

  17. Neil writes:

    My difficulty with the identification of Jesus with the Egyptian is not that it is of itself unlikely, but that it should claim to be “the” identification. The evidence rather points to Jesus being constructed from many motifs available to his creators.

    If we limit ourselves to only Gospel motifs from Josephus (Menahem, Jesus ben Ananias, ”the Egyptian”, the names of some other seditious, etc) we see that only the parallelisms with ”the Egyptian”invest the main episodes in the life of Jesus’ Gospel. While all the other characters just capture a single episode in the life of Jesus.

    For example, Menahem only serves to explain the triumphal entry into Jerusalem and the ignominious exit from Jerusalem.

    Jesus ben Ananias only serves to explain the silence of Jesus in front of Sanhedrin and Pilate.

    Some other seditious of Josephus serves only to appoint the disciples of Jesus.

    But only the Egyptian and Teuda reflect respectively the entire life of Jesus and John the Baptist.

    So if you accept those as true parallels, then you are forced to accept that Jesus is ”the Egyptian ”. Tertium non datur.

    1. At last it seems that we can find a convergence. To eliminate some residual doubt can serve what I said to René Salm? “if the shift forward of 20 years proposed by Lena Einhorn finds a foundation (in fact, is based on a number of other reliefs) I can also believe that Josephus misinterpreted the episode, exchanging a preacher for a subversive” if “This Egyptian prophet, from the Mount of Olives, promised the collapse of the walls of Jerusalem because the walls protected the temple of Judaism, and this collapse would not have occurred by physical force or through a miracle, but through the power of his new religion” as you find in KRST.
      Yet this has always been my thesis and you knew it if you really read my book.

      1. This of course does not mean that I abandon my astrotheological thesis. One thing is the content of the Gospels with Jesus totally allegorical, and another to identify a character bearer of a new religion born from the new Age of Pisces.

        1. What else would be the significance of a triple conjunction of Jupiter (?King) & Saturn (?Israel) in the constellation of Pisces around the time that many ancients, presumably on the basis of the prophecy in Daniel, expected a “savior”/saoshyant in the Near East?

          Hence the Magi narrative in Matthew, and chronological clues in Luke 3.1 and John 2.20 possibly designed to time-frame Jesus.

  18. Hi Lena,

    Agreed, and I will be reading Shift this week.

    Did you recognize the forty-year cycle of the Passover lamb of the new covenant – from Passover 33 until the end of the Jewish year on Passover 73 – as being related to the twenty-year shift? In other words, the authors simply used one half of their fundamental fictional period whenever they wanted to link to history.

    This might be how they structured their timing.


    1. Both, I think. Interestingly, there are, outside the New Testament, a handful of references to Jesus having come from Egypt as an adult (cf. Matthew). Some of those quotes are from polemic sources, some from Christian sources. The following are the ones I have found:

      Celsus (ca. 175 CE): “when she was pregnant she was turned out of doors by the carpenter to whom she had been betrothed, as having been guilty of adultery, and that she bore a child to a certain soldier named Panthera …
      After being driven away by her husband, and wandering about for a time, she disgracefully gave birth to Jesus, an illegitimate child, who having hired himself out as a servant in Egypt on account of his poverty, and having there acquired some miraculous powers, on which the Egyptians greatly pride themselves, returned to his own country, highly elated on account of them, and by means of these proclaimed himself a God.”

      Jerusalem Talmud (ca. 200): “He who scratches on the skin in the fashion of writing is guilty, but he who makes marks on the skin in the fashion of writing, is exempt from punishment. Rabbi Eliezer said to them: ‘But has not ben Stada brought (magic) spells out of Egypt just in this way?’ They answered him: ‘On account of one fool we do not ruin a multitude of reasonable men.’” [ben Stada and ben Pantera are often assumed to be Jesus; see Celsus above]

      Church Father Origen (countering Celsus; ca. 250): “And now, our Jesus, who is reproached with being born in a village … and being despised as the son of a poor laboring woman, and as having on account of his poverty left his native country and hired himself out in Egypt … has yet been able to shake the whole inhabited world.”

      Arnobius of Sicca (d. ca 330): “My opponent will perhaps meet me with many other slanderous and childish charges which are commonly urged. Jesus was a Magician; he effected all these things by secret arts. From the shrines of the Egyptians he stole the names of angels of might, and the religious system of a remote country.”

      Babylonian Talmud (ca. 500): “Rabbi Eliezer said to the Sages: ‘But did not ben Stada bring forth witchcraft from Egypt by means of scratches [in the form of charms] upon his flesh?” Was he then the son of Stada: surely he was the son of Pantera?’
      Said Rabbi Hisda: ‘The husband was Stada, the paramour was Pantera.’
      ‘He was a fool,’ answered they, ‘and proof cannot be adduced from fools.'”

      Bishop Amulo (847): “In their own language they [the Jews] call him ‘Ussum Hamizri,’ which is to say in Latin ‘Dissipator Ægyptius’ [the Egyptian Destroyer/Disperser].”

      Sepher Toldoth Yeshu, Huldreich version (1705): “Jesus father … is Mezaria, because he did the work of the Egyptians.”

      In other words, there are a number of references to Jesus physically having come from Egypt, but also to him having brought religious knowledge from there.

      In A Shift in Time, I argue (chapter “The Return from Egypt”) that Matthew’s statement that Jesus came from Egypt as a child is ambiguous. Right after we are told of his return with his family, we are told: ” Now in those days John the Baptist came, preaching in the wilderness of Judea” (Matt 3:1).
      How can Jesus be a child when he returns if at the same time John the Baptist starts preaching? They are the same age!

      1. The Egyptian connection in Jewish polemic refers to the acquisition of “magical” arts (e.g. ?medicine, drugs, hypnosis, conjuring tricks); cf. Justin Martyr, Dialogue with Trypho, 69.7.

        For further comment, see Morton Smith [& Russell Shorto], “Jesus the Magician” (1998); Graham Twelftree, “Jesus the Exorcist” (2011); Bernhard Pick, “Jesus in the Talmud” (2004 ed); Wikipedia, “Therapeutae”.

        “The Foreigner: A Search for the First Century Jesus” (1981) by the Arabist and Mosleyite Desmond Stewart is also worth perusal for anyone with time to spare.

  19. Hi Lena,

    What is it about Mark that leads you to suggest he is more informed? That he (presumably) was first?

    Mark is generally more allegorical and more cryptic (in this sense, more conspiratorial). See for example the curious occurrence of Abba in the only two episodes of Mark concerning the possibility of an escape of Jesus (in this my comment): a fact that only your theory can explain perfectly (the Father/Abba hears the prayer of Jesus freeing Jesus Son of Father, i.e. Barabbas), to my knowledge.

    In addition, our canonical Luke is probably a correction of Marcion’s Gospel, which hasn’t John the Baptist in the incipit (therefore lacking an important element of your theory: John the Baptist = Theuda). Acts of the Apostles is clearly pure II CE proto-Catholic and anti-marcionite propaganda with no historical interest at all. Mark seems to attack only the first historical followers of Jesus (and not other rival theologies): under your hypothesis, because they betrayed ”the Egyptian” on the Mount of Olives.

    Besides, a persuasive case may be made that all our Gospels (canonical and heretical) derive from Mark and only from it. Therefore the only link with ‘the Egyptian” can be found only in Mark, among all the Christian texts.

    1. I thank you for this observation:

      The parallel you present is interesting, but the allegorical, non-realistic, element would in this case be in Josephus’s text (a person, “the Egyptian”, being metaphorically presented as insignia). In my experience, if anything has been metaphorical in a parallel, that has usually been located in the NT.

      Josephus says that the ”Caesar’s effigies” were ”upon the ensigns”. Caesar was a real person just like ‘the Egyptian’.

      Note another curious parallel:

      the insignia allude only to Caesar but they are not Caesar.

      ”Jesus called King of Jews” alludes apparently to ‘the Egyptian’ but he is not ”the Egyptian” (”Jesus Barabbas” is him).

      The insignia and Jesus share their nature allusive to someone else (resp. Caesar and ”the Egyptian”), without being really that someone else.

    2. Thanks. Good and valid points about Mark. I would not, however, exclude Luke and Acts. If you see in my book, there are parallels between Josephus and all four Gospels and Acts. But Luke and Acts seem to stand out. It is in these books I have found most parallels, and it is there that all other first century messianic leaders are named (Judas the Galilean, Theudas, “the Egyptian,” Manaen/Menahem) + the census under Quirinius + the death of Herod, “eaten by worms,” + the conflict sparked by Galileans entering a Samaritan village + Stephen being attacked by a Jewish mob outside Jerusalem + the falling tower at Siloam, etc. etc. All of these events closely analogous to milestone events in the development of the Jewish rebellion, as described by Josephus. So I wouldn’t want to exclude them.
      And: I suspect Acts 21:38 is pivotal, not there by mistake.

      1. Luke in Luke 1 announces his intention to present a more “orderly account” of Jesus. This we suggest, included countless attempts to square the gospel rumors, with the more reliable Greek and Roman histories; like Josephus.

        However, the attempt by Luke and others to reconcile the gospels to more reliable histories, was often still too inventive. And made many mistakes (James 2?; and the ending of John). Luke for one thing, cannot face the possible origins of Jesus tales in not one but dozens of similar figures. Different figures who had been mixed up together by earlier, unreliable folk sources (Peter, etc.).

  20. Hi Neil, somewhere deep in the comments you say
    [quote]Likewise we have Mark crudely introducing yet one more “embarrassing” detail about Jesus with the episode of an associate cutting off someone’s ear… The original scene was likely inspired by Josephus’s detail about Antigonus and Hyrcanus.[/quote]
    How about the arrest of the Emperor Vitellius in 69AD, as described by Tacitus? This matches the scene more closely and ties in neatly with the mock Roman triumph of Mk.15

  21. It is hard to believe that Mark could have based part of his gospel on FJ work, when the first one predated the published work of the last one. Some common source in between?

    1. As I see it, we must always allow for the Gospel of Mark to have been written close to 70 (before Josephus wrote) but we don’t really know that as a fact. The evidence we have also allows us to place the Gospel’s composition in the second century. (The reason most biblical scholars place it early appears to be the need to set the first written account of Jesus’ life as close as possible to the time of Jesus.)

      But if the events were indeed historical as Josephus writes then the author of the gospel may not have been using Josephus at all but had independent information about the times.

  22. Pingback: On Parallels |

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Discover more from Vridar

Subscribe now to keep reading and get access to the full archive.

Continue reading