Joseph Atwill, author of Caesar’s Messiah: The Roman Conspiracy to Invent Jesus, from time to time challenges some of my points on this blog and I have tended to respond only in generalities. A week ago I posted what I see is the difference between two types of mythicist arguments: There are two types of Jesus mythicism. Here’s how to tell them apart. Type 1 I described as scholarly; it is one that engages in depth with the scholarly output of biblical studies and strives to follow the best in historical methods and logically valid argument; Type 2, on the other hand, I described as non-scholarly because it does none of those things.
I think all arguments that are taken seriously by others ought to be addressed seriously, and that applies to creationist arguments, holocaust denial arguments, and Joseph Atwill’s conspiracy theory argument. Is not the aim of any argument to try to persuade? So why not, at least at some point, try to set out a persuasive argument against a view that is embraced by others but that we consider to be flawed?
I will only focus on one particular argument in Caesar’s Messiah in this post. Hopefully that will be enough for now to prompt maybe one person at some time to think through afresh one explanation for Christian origins that they may have been wondering about.
The opening of chapter 1 announces the main argument:
I shall show that intellectuals working for Titus Flavius, the second of the three Flavian Caesars, created Christianity. Their main purpose was to replace the xenophobic Jewish messianism that waged war against the Roman Empire with a version of Judaism that would be obedient to Rome.
One of the individuals involved with the creation of the Gospels was the first-century historian Flavius Josephus. (p. 12)
In chapter 2 Joseph Atwill begins first serious comparison between the gospels and the works of Josephus in order to demonstrate that the gospels are a coded satire of Titus’s march on Jerusalem.
In Matthew 4:18-19 and Luke 5:9-10 we read how Jesus, while walking along the “Sea” of Galilee, called disciples to become “fishers of men”. Later in Matthew 11:23 (also in Luke 10:13f) Jesus prophecies doom for Chorazin, Bethsaida and Capernaum for rejecting his word.
Joseph Atwill argues that Jesus’ calling his disciples to become “fishers of men” and his pronouncement of doom upon Chorazin are satires of a slaughter by Romans of rebellious Jews in the lake of Galilee.
In support, he quotes the following sections from Josephus’s War, Book 3, chapter 10:
This lake is called by the people of the country the Lake of Gennesareth . . . they had a great number of ships . . . and they were so fitted up, that they might undertake a Seafight. But as the Romans were building a wall about their camp, Jesus and his party . . . made a sally upon them.
. . . Sometimes the Romans leaped into their ships, with swords in their hands, and slew them; but when some of them met the vessels, the Romans caught them by the middle, and destroyed at once their ships and themselves who were taken in them. 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; but if, in the desperate case they were in, they attempted to swim to their enemies, the Romans cut off either their heads or their hands . . . (p. 39)
The passage reads like a single unit about a sea battle but the thee dotted lines at the beginning of the second paragraph represent over 3000 words of Whiston’s translation. The main thrust of the story is omitted. To see the full passage see below where I have copied the totality between “The lake is called by the people . . .” to “their heads of their hands.”
Atwill introduces the above words of Josephus with a comparison to “fishing for men”:
In War of the Jews, Josephus describes a sea battle where the Romans caught Jews like fish. The battle occurred at Gennesareth, where Titus attacked a band of Jewish rebels led by a leader named Jesus. (p. 39, my bolded emphasis in all quotations)
If you have not read the Josephan passage do so now. Josephus makes no comparison at all with the Romans catching Jews like fish. The image never surfaces in Josephus’ account of the battle. If one reads the passage in full (as I have copied below) one encounters a grisly image of slaughter of desperate humans struggling in the water. Heads and hands are cut off. Victims are not “caught like fish” but are stabbed with spears, shot with arrows, cut with swords.
Atwill has transferred the image of “fishing for men” from the gospels and gratuitously injected it into the passage in Josephus.
But an uneducated peasant could not have understood that there was another “prophecy” that came to pass within the passages above. I am referring to Christ’s exhortation to become “fishers”or “catchers” of men, while standing on the spot where Jews would be caught like fish during the coming war with Rome.
However, any patricians who knew the details of the sea battle at Gennesareth would have seen the irony in a Messiah who was named “Savior” inventing the phrase “fishers of men” while standing on the beach where the Jews were caught like fish. The grim comedy is self-evident. . . . .
The other “fulfilled” prophecy that of Jesus’ prediction that his followers would become fishers for men, is not so straightforward. It could be understood only by someone who, like the residents of the Flavian court, had knowledge of the details of the sea battle between the Romans and the Jewish fishermen at Gennesareth. Only such individuals could have seen the prophetic irony in Jesus using the expression while standing on the very beach where the Jews would later be caught like fish.
. . . . The structure of the comedy is important. Jesus speaks of “catching men” in a seemingly symbolic sense. Josephus then records that Jesus was indeed a “true” prophet. His vision of “catching men” at Gennesareth did come to pass, the joke being that it came to pass literally, and not in the symbolic manner that Jesus seemed to have meant with the phrase. (pp. 39f)
Nothing in Josephus hints that he had any image of the Jewish victims being “caught like fish”. Nothing. To make up for Josephus’s silence Atwill finds occasions to repeat the image and impute it to Josephus many times.
I have often addressed the topic of intertextuality, demonstrating places where the gospel narratives are evidently derived from a reading of passages in the Old Testament and perhaps other literature, too. In every one of those cases there are clearly distinctive images or words found in both texts that suggest a real link in the author’s mind. If Josephus compared the Roman slaughter of Jews to catching fish then Atwill would have some material with which to make a case.
Origin of the “fishers of men” image
Atwill does not address the well-known sources for the image of “fishers of men” in the gospels: Jeremiah 16:16 and Ezekiel 47:10. The first link contains commentary references to long-known origins of the image.
Nor does he address the source of Matthew’s and Luke’s accounts of Jesus calling disciples to become “fishers of men”: Mark 1:16-17.
We would expect a scholarly argument to acknowledge what is clear to every scholar of the gospels — that Matthew and Luke were copying Mark, not Josephus. A scholarly account would at least address this common understanding even if to present reasons why it was deemed inadequate as an explanation. A scholarly argument would be expected to focus on the first gospel that used the expression (Mark) and that was copied by others (Matthew and Luke). Unfortunately Atwill does not discuss the Gospel of Mark in this context at all. Perhaps the reason is that the Gospel of Mark does not contain another passage found in both Matthew and Luke that Atwill wants to link with “fishers of men”.
Woe to the Coracin fish!
Josephus breaks from his narrative of the conflict between the Jews and Romans to set the scene, to portray the landscape and lake of Galilee. In one part Josephus writes, quoting Atwill:
The country also that lies over against this lake hath the same name of Gennesareth . . . Some have thought it to be a vein of the Nile, because it produces the Coracin fish as well as the lake does which is near to Alexandria.
For Josephus the interesting detail about the fish is that it is not shaped like most other fish and is also found in Egypt. Atwill sees here a link with Jesus pronouncement of a curse upon the town of Chorazain.
In other words, Atwill imputes a fishing analogy into Josephus’s account that is simply not there and on the basis of that entirely creative imputation builds another “link” with the gospels when Jesus says,
“Woe to you, Chorazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida! For if the miracles that were performed in you had been performed in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago, sitting in sackcloth and ashes. But it will be more bearable for Tyre and Sidon at the judgment than for you. And you, Capernaum, will you be lifted to the heavens? No, you will go down to Hades. (Luke 10:13-14)
Atwill concludes from this “juxtaposition”,
So, while at the Sea of Galilee Jesus predicted woe for the Chorazain, and said that henceforth his disciples would follow him and become fishers for men. Titus’ experience was strangely parallel to Jesus’ prophecies in that he literally brought woe for the Chorazainians and his soldiers literally followed him and became “fishers of men.” That is, they fished for the inhabitants of the village named for the Coracin fish. (p. 41)
Atwill links “fishers of men” with “Chorazain” even though in the gospels the two references have no relationship at all. They are separated by several chapters and each appears in a quite different context and with no thematic or conceptual link.
Josephus does mention a city that does face destruction in this particular episode — Tarichese. Given Atwill’s argument one would expect Jesus to have pronounced doom on Tarichese instead of “Chorazain”, but Tarichese is never mentioned in any of the gospels. And the only “Chorazain” Josephus mentions is the “Coracin fish”, and he does not even refer to anyone actually catching it. Nor does Josephus mention Bethsaida or Capernaum as doomed to destruction as per Jesus’ prophecy.
Another gospel passage that Atwill argues is related to the massacre scene in Josephus is the reference in Luke 5 where Jesus tells his would-be disciples to “fear not” after they learn they are in the company of a man with great power. In Luke 5:4-11 we read:
When he had finished speaking, he said to Simon, “Put out into deep water, and let down the nets for a catch.” Simon answered, “Master, we’ve worked hard all night and haven’t caught anything. But because you say so, I will let down the nets.” When they had done so, they caught such a large number of fish that their nets began to break. So they signaled their partners in the other boat to come and help them, and they came and filled both boats so full that they began to sink. When Simon Peter saw this, he fell at Jesus’ knees and said, “Go away from me, Lord; I am a sinful man!” For he and all his companions were astonished at the catch of fish they had taken, and so were James and John, the sons of Zebedee, Simon’s partners. Then Jesus said to Simon, “Don’t be afraid; from now on you will fish for people.” So they pulled their boats up on shore, left everything and followed him.
Atwill compares this command with Titus urging his men to not have any fear in battle with the Jews. The fear in Luke (the scene does not appear in Mark or Matthew) is a reference to fear of Jesus himself, not what will be involved in later in “fishing for men”. It is a common trope found in the most obvious source for the gospels, Old Testament scenes of prophets meeting God for the first time. Just type the word “afraid” into the BibleGateway and you will see it begins with Abraham, Sarah and on through Moses and others.
When one reads the passage from Josephus in which the Jews were “caught” [there is no such passage as we have pointed out above] it is also recorded that the soldiers who did the “catching” [the soldiers are never said by Josephus to be “catching”] were told not to be afraid and indeed “followed” someone. As the next excerpts show, the person being followed was Titus, who told his troops not to be afraid. (p. 42)
A scholarly account can only be credible if it addresses the most common and obvious explanations for sources. It cannot ignore what is already understood when it presents a new argument. A scholarly account must also refer to evidence, not assumptions that the author of a source had the evidence (that the Romans were in effect “fishing for men”) in mind even though he did not actually express it.
Sent by his father
In Josephus we read that Titus was sent to battle by his father Vespasian. Atwill draws another parallel with the gospels:
Like Jesus, Titus had been sent by his father. . . . Titus, again like Jesus at Gennesareth, is in a sense beginning his ministry there. (p. 42)
Again, we have Atwill reading images into the text that are not there to begin with. Atwill has taken words from other gospels or narratives and transferred them to the passages in Matthew and Luke that contain no suggestion that Jesus is calling disciples in direct response to being “sent by his father” to do so. Atwill is not addressing the words of the text but again is reading other ideas from elsewhere into them.
Unusual parallels? The same nature as parallels with Moses?
Atwill adds a disclaimer:
The previous examples, in and of themselves, are not convincing evidence that there is a deliberate parallel between Jesus’ ministry and Titus’ campaign. It is, after all, quite possible that it was just an unfortunate coincidence that Jesus chose the beach at Gennesareth as the spot where he described his future ministry as fishing for men. . . .
But no, there are no parallels to begin with. The only parallel is between the Gospels’ “fishers of men” and Atwill’s imagining that a scene in Josephus could be related to the same metaphor. That’s an imaginary parallel, not a real one. It has no textual evidence to support it.
To summarize, though there were thousands of other possible locations, both Jesus and Titus can be said to have had the onset of their narratives at Gennesareth, and in a manner that involved fishing for men—parallels that are unusual enough to at least permit questioning whether they were the product of coincidence. (pp. 42-44)
No, they the parallels are imagined, not “unusual enough” for anything.
Further, the parallels are of the same nature as the typological relationship shown above between Jesus and Moses. The connections between Jesus and Titus are made up of parallel concepts, locations, and sequences. (p. 44)
There are very real parallels between Jesus and Moses, especially in the Gospel of Matthew, that are well recognized among biblical scholars, because the textual relationships, the images and themes, are indeed very similar. Moses delivers teaching or commands from a mountain just as Jesus delivers instructions from a mountain. In both narratives there is a mountain mentioned (not simply imagined in one of the accounts) and in both there are clear teachings with the latter even making an explicit comparison with the former (“You have heard it said [a command from Moses]….”). Moses came through waters of the Red Sea to wander 40 years in the wilderness just as Jesus was baptized and went to wander 40 days in the wilderness: the coming through water, the wilderness, the number 40 — they are all explicit images in both texts. It is simply not the case that the parallels Atwill has asserted between Josephus and the gospels are “of the same nature as the typological relationship between Jesus and Moses.” The are parallel concepts and sequences between Moses and Jesus; the only parallel between Josephus and the gospels is the location, the lake a of Galilee.
Just the beginning
The overlaps between Jesus’ prophecies and Titus’ accomplishments make the “fishers of men” parallel more difficult to accept as random. And this is just the beginning of the uncanny parallels between the two men who called themselves the “son of God” and whose “ministries” began in Galilee and end in Jerusalem. (See chart on page 43.) (p. 44)
The sequence of parallels would indeed by “uncanny” if they were more than in the imagination of Joseph Atwill.
Atwill, Joseph. 2011. Caesar’s Messiah: The Roman Conspiracy to Invent Jesus: Flavian Signature Edition. Charleston, SC: CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform.
The full account from Wars 3:10 from which Atwill selected sections to make his parallel with the gospels:
This lake is called by the people of the country the Lake of Gennesareth. The city itself is situated like Tiberias, at the bottom of a mountain, and on those sides which are not washed by the sea, had been strongly fortified by Josephus, though not so strongly as Tiberias; for the wall of Tiberias had been built at the beginning of the Jews’ revolt, when he had great plenty of money, and great power, but Tarichese partook only the remains of that liberality, Yet had they a great number of ships gotten ready upon the lake, that, in case they were beaten at land, they might retire to them; and they were so fitted up, that they might undertake a Sea-fight also. But as the Romans were building a wall about their camp, Jesu and his party were neither affrighted at their number, nor at the good order they were in, but made a sally upon them; and at the very first onset the builders of the wall were dispersed; and these pulled what little they had before built to pieces; but as soon as they saw the armed men getting together, and before they had suffered any thing themselves, they retired to their own men. But then the Romans pursued them, and drove them into their ships, where they launched out as far as might give them the opportunity of reaching the Romans with what they threw at them, and then cast anchor, and brought their ships close, as in a line of battle, and thence fought the enemy from the sea, who were themselves at land. But Vespasian hearing that a great multitude of them were gotten together in the plain that was before the city, he thereupon sent his son, with six hundred chosen horsemen, to disperse them.
2. But when Titus perceived that the enemy was very numerous, he sent to his father, and informed him that he should want more forces. But as he saw a great many of the horsemen eager to fight, and that before any succors could come to them, and that yet some of them were privately under a sort of consternation at the multitude of the Jews, he stood in a place whence he might be heard, and said to them, “My brave Romans! for it is right for me to put you in mind of what nation you are, in the beginning of my speech, that so you may not be ignorant who you are, and who they are against whom we are going to fight. For as to us, Romans, no part of the habitable earth hath been able to escape our hands hitherto; but as for the Jews, that I may speak of them too, though they have been already beaten, yet do they not give up the cause; and a sad thing it would be for us to grow wealthy under good success, when they bear up under their misfortunes. As to the alacrity which you show publicly, I see it, and rejoice at it; yet am I afraid lest the multitude of the enemy should bring a concealed fright upon some of you: let such a one consider again, who we are that are to fight, and who those are against whom we are to fight. Now these Jews, though they be very bold and great despisers of death, are but a disorderly body, and unskillful in war, and may rather be called a rout than an army; while I need say nothing of our skill and our good order; for this is the reason why we Romans alone are exercised for war in time of peace, that we may not think of number for number when we come to fight with our enemies: for what advantage should we reap by our continual sort of warfare, if we must still be equal in number to such as have not been used to war. Consider further, that you are to have a conflict with men in effect unarmed, while you are well armed; with footmen, while you are horsemen; with those that have no good general, while you have one; and as these advantages make you in effect manifold more than you are, so do their disadvantages mightily diminish their number. Now it is not the multitude of men, though they be soldiers, that manages wars with success, but it is their bravery that does it, though they be but a few; for a few are easily set in battle-array, and can easily assist one another, while over-numerous armies are more hurt by themselves than by their enemies. It is boldness and rashness, the effects of madness, that conduct the Jews. Those passions indeed make a great figure when they succeed, but are quite extinguished upon the least ill success; but we are led on by courage, and obedience, and fortitude, which shows itself indeed in our good fortune, but still does not for ever desert us in our ill fortune. Nay, indeed, your fighting is to be on greater motives than those of the Jews; for although they run the hazard of war for liberty, and for their country, yet what can be a greater motive to us than glory? and that. it may never be said, that after we have got dominion of the habitable earth, the Jews are able to confront us. We must also reflect upon this, that there is no fear of our suffering any incurable disaster in the present case; for those that are ready to assist us are many, and at hand also; yet it is in our power to seize upon this victory ourselves; and I think we ought to prevent the coming of those my father is sending to us for our assistance, that our success may be peculiar to ourselves, and of greater reputation to us. And I cannot but think this an opportunity wherein my father, and I, and you shall be all put to the trial, whether he be worthy of his former glorious performances, whether I be his son in reality, and whether you be really my soldiers; for it is usual for my father to conquer; and for myself, I should not bear the thoughts of returning to him if I were once taken by the enemy. And how will you be able to avoid being ashamed, if you do not show equal courage with your commander, when he goes before you into danger? For you know very well that I shall go into the danger first, and make the first attack upon the enemy. Do not you therefore desert me, but persuade yourselves that God will be assisting to my onset. Know this also before we begin, that we shall now have better success than we should have, if we were to fight at a distance.”
3. As Titus was saying this, an extraordinary fury fell upon the men; and as Trajan was already come before the fight began, with four hundred horsemen, they were uneasy at it, because the reputation of the victory would be diminished by being common to so many. Vespasian had also sent both Antonius and Silo, with two thousand archers, and had given it them in charge to seize upon the mountain that was over against the city, and repel those that were upon the wall; which archers did as they were commanded, and prevented those that attempted to assist them that way; And now Titus made his own horse march first against the enemy, as did the others with a great noise after him, and extended themselves upon the plain as wide as the enemy which confronted them; by which means they appeared much more numerous than they really were. Now the Jews, although they were surprised at their onset, and at their good order, made resistance against their attacks for a little while; but when they were pricked with their long poles, and overborne by the violent noise of the horsemen, they came to be trampled under their feet; many also of them were slain on every side, which made them disperse themselves, and run to the city, as fast as every one of them were able. So Titus pressed upon the hindmost, and slew them; and of the rest, some he fell upon as they stood on heaps, and some he prevented, and met them in the mouth, and run them through; many also he leaped upon as they fell one upon another, and trod them down, and cut off all the retreat they had to the wall, and turned them back into the plain, till at last they forced a passage by their multitude, and got away, and ran into the city.
4. But now there fell out a terrible sedition among them within the city; for the inhabitants themselves, who had possessions there, and to whom the city belonged, were not disposed to fight from the very beginning; and now the less so, because they had been beaten; but the foreigners, which were very numerous, would force them to fight so much the more, insomuch that there was a clamor and a tumult among them, as all mutually angry one at another. And when Titus heard this tumult, for he was not far from the wall, he cried out,” Fellow soldiers, now is the time; and why do we make any delay, when God is giving up the Jews to us? Take the victory which is given you: do not you hear what a noise they make? Those that have escaped our hands are ill an uproar against one another. We have the city if we make haste; but besides haste, we must undergo some labor, and use some courage; for no great thing uses to be accomplished without danger: accordingly, we must not only prevent their uniting again, which necessity will soon compel them to do, but we must also prevent the coming of our own men to our assistance, that, as few as we are, we may conquer so great a multitude, and may ourselves alone take the city:”
5. As soon as ever Titus had said this, he leaped upon his horse, and rode apace down to the lake; by which lake he marched, and entered into the city the first of them all, as did the others soon after him. Hereupon those that were upon the walls were seized with a terror at the boldness of the attempt, nor durst any one venture to fight with him, or to hinder him; so they left guarding the city, and some of those that were about Jesus fled over the country, while others of them ran down to the lake, and met the enemy in the teeth, and some were slain as they were getting up into the ships, but others of them as they attempted to overtake those that were already gone aboard. There was also a great slaughter made in the city, while those foreigners that had not fled away already made opposition; but the natural inhabitants were killed without fighting: for in hopes of Titus’s giving them his right hand for their security, and out of a consciousness that they had not given any consent to the war, they avoided fighting, till Titus had slain the authors of this revolt, and then put a stop to any further slaughters, out of commiseration of these inhabitants of the place. But for those that had fled to the lake, upon seeing the city taken, they sailed as far as they possibly could from the enemy.
6. Hereupon Titus sent one of his horsemen to his father, and let him know the good news of what he had done; at which, as was natural, he was very joyful, both on account of the courage and glorious actions of his son; for he thought that now the greatest part of the war was over. He then came thither himself, and set men to guard the city, and gave them command to take care that nobody got privately out of it, but to kill such as attempted so to do. And on the next day he went down to the lake, and commanded that vessels should be fitted up, in order to pursue those that had escaped in the ships. These vessels were quickly gotten ready accordingly, because there was great plenty of materials, and a great number of artificers also.
7. Now this lake of Gennesareth is so called from the country adjoining to it. Its breadth is forty furlongs, and its length one hundred and forty; its waters are sweet, and very agreeable for drinking, for they are finer than the thick waters of other fens; the lake is also pure, and on every side ends directly at the shores, and at the sand; it is also of a temperate nature when you draw it up, and of a more gentle nature than river or fountain water, and yet always cooler than one could expect in so diffuse a place as this is. Now when this water is kept in the open air, it is as cold as that snow which the country people are accustomed to make by night in summer. There are several kinds of fish in it, different both to the taste and the sight from those elsewhere. It is divided into two parts by the river Jordan. Now Panium is thought to be the fountain of Jordan, but in reality it is carried thither after an occult manner from the place called Phiala: this place lies as you go up to Trachonitis, and is a hundred and twenty furlongs from Cesarea, and is not far out of the road on the right hand; and indeed it hath its name of Phiala [vial or bowl] very justly, from the roundness of its circumference, as being round like a wheel; its water continues always up to its edges, without either sinking or running over. And as this origin of Jordan was formerly not known, it was discovered so to be when Philip was tetrarch of Trachonitis; for he had chaff thrown into Phiala, and it was found at Paninto, where the ancients thought the fountain-head of the river was, whither it had been therefore carried [by the waters]. As for Panium itself, its natural beauty had been improved by the royal liberality of Agrippa, and adorned at his expenses. Now Jordan’s visible stream arises from this cavern, and divides the marshes and fens of the lake Semechonitis; when it hath run another hundred and twenty furlongs, it first passes by the city Julias, and then passes through the middle of the lake Gennesareth; after which it runs a long way over a desert, and then makes its exit into the lake Asphaltitis.
8. The country also that lies over against this lake hath the same name of Gennesareth; its nature is wonderful as well as its beauty; its soil is so fruitful that all sorts of trees can grow upon it, and the inhabitants accordingly plant all sorts of trees there; for the temper of the air is so well mixed, that it agrees very well with those several sorts, particularly walnuts, which require the coldest air, flourish there in vast plenty; there are palm trees also, which grow best in hot air; fig trees also and olives grow near them, which yet require an air that is more temperate. One may call this place the ambition of nature, where it forces those plants that are naturally enemies to one another to agree together; it is a happy contention of the seasons, as if every one of them laid claim to this country; for it not only nourishes different sorts of autumnal fruit beyond men’s expectation, but preserves them a great while; it supplies men with the principal fruits, with grapes and figs continually, during ten months of the year and the rest of the fruits as they become ripe together through the whole year; for besides the good temperature of the air, it is also watered from a most fertile fountain. The people of the country call it Capharnaum. Some have thought it to be a vein of the Nile, because it produces the Coracin fish as well as that lake does which is near to Alexandria. The length of this country extends itself along the banks of this lake that bears the same name for thirty furlongs, and is in breadth twenty, And this is the nature of that place.
9. But now, when the vessels were gotten ready, Vespasian put upon ship-board as many of his forces as he thought sufficient to be too hard for those that were upon the lake, and set sail after them. Now these which were driven into the lake could neither fly to the land, where all was in their enemies’ hand, and in war against them; nor could they fight upon the level by sea, for their ships were small and fitted only for piracy; they were too weak to fight with Vespasian’s vessels, and the mariners that were in them were so few, that they were afraid to come near the Romans, who attacked them in great numbers. However, as they sailed round about the vessels, and sometimes as they came near them, they threw stones at the Romans when they were a good way off, or came closer and fought them; yet did they receive the greatest harm themselves in both cases. As for the stones they threw at the Romans, they only made a sound one after another, for they threw them against such as were in their armor, while the Roman darts could reach the Jews themselves; and when they ventured to come near the Romans, they became sufferers themselves before they could do any harm to the ether, and were drowned, they and their ships together. As for those that endeavored to come to an actual fight, the Romans ran many of them through with their long poles. Sometimes the Romans leaped into their ships, with swords in their hands, and slew them; but when some of them met the vessels, the Romans caught them by the middle, and destroyed at once their ships and themselves who were taken in them. 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; but if, in the desperate case they were in, they attempted to swim to their enemies, the Romans cut off either their heads or their hands;
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48 thoughts on “Why Joseph Atwill’s Caesar’s Messiah is “Type 2” mythicism”
grizzly image of slaughter of desperate humans struggling in the water
grisly image of slaughter of desperate humans struggling in the water
The main problem with Type 1 of mythicism is, as you’ve extensively documented, “the scholarly output of biblical studies” is largely moribund, a mine of apologetics and disinformation. Engaging with actual history and historians reveals the entire field of “biblical studies” to be but a fantasy football version of history, the goal and purpose of which is the perpetual rationalization of myth. Folklore studies died on the vine because they couldn’t persuade colleges that the study of folklore was a worthy subject even if there was no historical basis for the stories. Biblical studies can never admit that there is little to no historical basis for their field, that it should be classified as ancient literature and folklore, out of fear that they would become as near-extinct as folklore studies.
Atwill’s thesis is not very sound in detail; but the idea that the New Testament writers were engaged with Josephus’s texts — perhaps heavily — is definitely a legitimate road for more research, as Lena Einhorn and others have recently demonstrated.
This fits in with RM Price’s point that:
Biblical studies is obviously dominated by Christian ideas, and one does not look very far to find all sorts of methodological problems as you point out. But at the same time there is some very good material there and some research is very useful indeed. Either way, I think it is important for anyone writing about Christian origins to address all relevant work and that will include writing about the methodological flaws as one finds them in the mainstream papers. Doherty does that.
I think the view of the original Christians as illiterate fisherman is just meant to fit in with the theme of “fishers of men.” This goes together with the larger model of “the last shall be first and the first shall be last,” where Jesus, a fallible prophet from backwater Nazareth (whose family thinks he’s crazy and who can’t perform miracles in his hometown) and his band of Peasants reconcile man to God.
Crossan talks about the contrast between Peace through Victory (Pax Romana) of Caesar, and Peace through Justice of Jesus. Helms points out:
Larry Hurtado also seems to provide evidence against the illiteracy view of the first Christians. Hurtado writes
It’s interesting how contradictory the various gospels are on that issue.
The Gospel of Matthew has Joseph and Mary living in Bethlehem, yet G. Luke has them living mostly in Nazareth (after a brief sojourn in Bethlehem, where the Davidic messiah had to come from (John 7:42)), and Mark doesn’t say anything about his origins. The Gospel of John is less clear, starting with a creation theme: in the beginning was the word, etc.. John 7:41-2 has Him coming from Galilee, though that is soon disputed in John 7:52.
Mark 1:9 yokes Jesus to Nazareth, and this fits in with the theme of the last will be first and the first will be last (Mark 10:31).
Ah, Cheers. I was quoting someone and should have checked (though it is David Trobisch I was quoting)
Mark 1:1-14 (NIV)
Thanks for the sincere criticism, though you did make several important mistakes. You wrote that “the only parallel between Josephus and the gospels is the location, the lake a of Galilee.”
Simply incorrect. The system of typology used in the Gospels – which creates the Moses typology in Matthew’s preministry story – is constructed with parallels names, locations, concepts and sequence. Thus, Josephus passage is not only at the correct location but also at the correct point in the parallel sequence – the beginning of Titus’s campaign. A critical oversight on your part as had Josephus recorded the event at a different point in his storyline the sequence would be broken and its role in the typological linkage lost. Moreover, notice that sequence has an influence on comprehension. The linkage between Jesus’s baptism and the Israelites passing through the Red Sea can really only be seen within a sequence.
But an even worse blunder is your conjecture:
“No, they the parallels are imagined, not “unusual enough” for anything.”
It is simply myopia on your part to not see that Josephus’s statement “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;” can be coherently expressed as “fishing for men”.
But let’s not argue, let’s test. In fact, anyone can demonstrate that your conjecture is false with the following methodology. Simply take Josephus’s ‘fishing for men passage and place it in a group of nine of his passages selected at random. Then ask a series of readers to compare the passages and ask them to select the Josephus passage most parallel to Jesus’s fishing for men passage. You will find that Josephus’s ‘fishing for men’ passage will be selected at a greater than random – one in ten – rate.
Please run the test and post the results here.
What you will see is that as we enter into the Jesus/Titus typology we begin with the correct location, a concept that is demonstrated as having parallelism that is non-random that occurs at the correct point in sequence. Nothing will have been proven yet, of course. A sequence cannot by judged by one or even a few linked parallels.
A parallel sequence can only be judged as a whole, so let’s run through it shall we?
A couple of requests. One please use the Flavian Signature edition. I made a number of improvements in my analysis and only use that edition within criticism. And if you don’t mind I will only respond to your posts, as I don’t have the time at the moment for anything else. Thus if someone has a great criticism send it to Neil who then can put it within his response.
I certainly see how killing people in the water can be compared to fishing, which likewise involves killing creatures in the water. But why think that the author of this gospel account was subtly flattering Titus? One model that I can see is that the author took the account of a human Son of a World-Ruling Emperor and modified its details to portray Jesus as Superior to Titus – the heavenly as greater than the earthly.
I see nothing wrong in principle with the idea that the gospels derived in part from Josephus, but am turned away from the idea by your suggestion that this was a conspiracy involving Josephus, the Emperor, et al.
Once again, Joe, such a “test” is gratuitously imputing the image into the Josephan narrative. Josephus makes no fishing analogy. That is entirely from your wish to see a fishing for men analogy in the passage. Yes, it is “closer” to a potential analogy because it has to do with a lake than it would if the battle were on a mountain, but that is irrelevant. There is no hint in Josephus’s passage that he means to convey any image of “fishing for men”. Quite the contrary, even, if we were to press the image, since the Romans don’t take any of the men they kill from the water but leave them there to bloat and stink the area for days afterwards, as Josephus describes. That’s not fishing for men. That’s simply butchering them — as happens in any such battle.
The point remains: Josephus introduces no image of fishing for men. That’s entirely your own projection.
Not seeing ‘fishing for men’ as an obvious metaphorical description for catching swimming men is myopic. Not accepting random sampling as proof of the parallelism required for a coherent metaphor is beneath my standards for a discussion partner.
Please have the last word.
A Type 1 mythicism would be capable of arguing a case with rigorous appeal to evidence and not fall back on accusing someone who disagreed of myopia and being beneath his standards. Such failures to appeal to evidence clearly in the sources themselves (as opposed to imaginations of authors) and falling back on personal accusations is something I came to expect from the astrotheology advocates and the worst of apologists.
For the reason I do not accept your point, for what you see as my myopia, for the lack of evidence in your point, see https://vridar.org/2018/11/03/why-joe-atwills-caesars-messiah-is-type-2-mythicism/#comment-88208
Regarding astrotheology, mythicist RM Price says:
My beef with advocates of astrotheology is not with the concept itself but with vicious, hostile attacks of its advocates against others, including me, who question their specific lines of reasoning (logical validity) etc. At the end of the day an argument may prove to be correct but if it is arrived at by wrong methods it is an invalid conclusion. I have drawn the comparison with my days in school when a maths teacher would say that we would be marked wrong even if we got the right answer but did so (accidentally, or by luck) by invalid methods.
To your point:
“Atwill does not address the well-known sources for the image of “fishers of men” in the gospels: Jeremiah 16:16 and Ezekiel 47:10. “
Jeremiah 16 was certainly in the authors mind but doubt if Ezekiel was. Certain I missed many connections but didn’t miss this one. Point of CM is to introduce the typology, not produce an exhaustive analysis of it. In brief note that Jer 16 fits well with Josephus’s ‘fishing for men’ passage but does not with gathering followers for the Prince of Peace.
To your point: “Nor does he address the source of Matthew’s and Luke’s accounts of Jesus calling disciples to become “fishers of men”: Mark 1:16-17.”
Good example of Type 0 scholarship as there is only remote chance Mark 1 was the basis for Mathew preministry story. The typological elements Mark uses – 40 days in Wilderness, tempted – create no coherent typology. However, as Matthew uses them within longer sequence they do. Thus, Mark 1 abbreviated Matthew’s coherent typology. Matthew did not build his from nothing.
Also was aware of this point but had enough on my plate without trying to overthrow the ‘three card Monty’ of the synoptic problem.
I am sorry you are not engaging with the scholarship that was more than adequately explained the origins of the images you address in Matthew and Luke. Simply ignoring alternative explanations that are the product of extensive scholarly studies in intertextuality and Jewish literature, and imagining that an author was meaning to convey images he nowhere expresses, — that is type 2 mythicism. And to attempt to say an appeal to type 1 mythicism is in fact 0 scholarship only cements the status of your work as totally unscholarly. Your responses indicate to me that you do not understand the fundamentals of basic scholarly inquiry.
“Your responses indicate to me that you do not understand the fundamentals of basic scholarly inquiry.”
I have no problem reading books advocating positions I disagree with. I’ve done it lots of times. But I have not read Atwill’s book, and if he talks to his readers the way he talks to you, I’m probably never going to.
Nicely done. Yes, keeping on top of this type of nonsense is important. It’s a touchy subject, but there really does need to be some kind of index of works and writers that ranks the academic quality of their work in regard to mythicism. The problem is that according to the mainstream view we’re all nuts, but we need to be able to clearly separate out “good mythicism” from “bad mythicism”. And I know this whole concept itself is also controversial given that really all mythicists are on the fringe, but I think a big reason why “mythicsm” as a whole is held in so little regard is because of works like this that give all mythicists a bad name.It’s too easy to just paint all “mythicsm” with a single brush and lump it all in with the Acharya Ss and Joe Atwills of the world…
Good article Neil.
Good point r.g.price,
I don’t wish to discount any mythicist theories out of hand, and even the worse may serve a good purpose of getting people to think and reconsider what is too often taken for granted (simple existence of a single man who did the 101 things described in the gospels). However, some mythicist theories have as little evidence as “realist” theories of Jesus.
We may be facing a communications problem common to a lot of fields, ideology fills in for “the unknown”. For example, it has become popular to disparage Christopher Columbus as gold-hungry in many circles, ignoring his stated desire to bring Christ and Christianity to the Indians. He states directly that this is his motive for his journeys and actions. In fact the two goals are not mutually exclusive. To spread Christianity, Gold (money) was needed. In his mind, helping the faith and making money were not contradictory or exclusive enterprises. He can be regarded as a Christian puritan as was his King Ferdinand – getting both the new heretics (Muslims) and the old heretics (Jews) out of Spain.
For the gospel writers, making up lies/stories about Jesus and spreading the Christian faith were not mutually exclusive enterprises, but were dependent on each other.
It is further worth pointing out that most of the battle on the lake is depicted as a surface battle, people throwing projectiles from ships, or being rammed by ships. Only in the last sentence is there a mention made of those who were subsequently drowning and who were hacked to death. None of this suggests a “fishing for men” topos. A surface battle, between people on ships, and then hacking those that were drowning. Nothing suggests that the author even had an image of “fishing for men” in mind — even if we were to allow the hidden thoughts of an author to enter a serious discussion.
Your response is cognitive dissonance, which keeps in theme with your other critiques. Our exchange now has real value for the public as it is an example of how this condition affects NT scholarship in general.
In a prior post I stated that “literary parallels that will reliably be seen by a number of readers at a greater than random chance are quite rare, and they cannot and will not occur in a sequence of any length by chance.”
And then I asked the question: “Please explain what other phenomena than dependency could explain the sequence I maintain random sampling would reveal.”
You replied with an obvious non sequitur:
“I don’t see any explicit fishing analogy in the Josephan passage under discussion. The only fishing analogies I can see are from your own suggestions.”
Why did you respond with a non sequitur? I believe you produced it because you couldn’t see my point. In other words, when presented with a technique that might be able to produce a new understanding, you were unable to see anything but your fixed opinion. I realize now that you have not been responding to my points because you simply can’t see them – the very definition of cognitive dissonance.
Your cognitive dissonance is also clear in your inability to understand the huge flaw in your overall approach to ‘fishing for men’ analysis, even after I have pointed it out. You analysis attempts to disprove a metaphor by claiming its basis doesn’t exist in a text of history. Neil, please try to understand my simple point, as it might be embarrassing in the future for you to do otherwise. The fact that a historian does nothing to create a metaphor is in no way relevant to whether or not someone else decided to create one connected to the history. Your analysis is an example ‘par excellence’ of Type Zero scholarship, in that the more you engage in it the more confused you become. The history that a metaphor cannot be created from does not exist.
The correct question is whether or not Matthew was somehow linking his metaphorical phrase ‘fishing for men’ to this sentence in Josephus’ history: “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;” Note that the analysis from Matthew to Josephus is completely different in that it searches a world of symbolism for metaphor, not one of history.
The claim that a metaphor has been created can be demonstrated as plausible if a number of random readers beyond circumstance recognize parallelism. This does not prove that there is a deliberate metaphor, but it does demonstrate plausibly. When I suggested such a test would demonstrate plausible parallelism between the two phrases, you wrote:
“Once again, Joe, such a “test” is gratuitously imputing the image into the Josephan narrative. Josephus makes no fishing analogy.”
Classic cognitive dissonance. You are not able to see a different set of facts than the one you believe exists and are – incredibly – describing random sampling as ‘gratuitous’ because you fear such tests would show your claim that there is “no” possibility of a “fishing analogy’ false. (It goes without saying that readers would see catching swimming men as having parallelism with the phrase ‘fishing for men’.)
Your following response is also in theme in that it shows the technique of almost manic distraction you seem to be engaging in to keep yourself from seeing something other than your belief system. You are saying in effect, “look how many subjects there are in the passage other than the phrase being discussed”. This is a way of avoiding bringing the phrase being discussed to mind
“It is further worth pointing out that most of the battle on the lake is depicted as a surface battle, people throwing projectiles from ships, or being rammed by ships. Only in the last sentence is there a mention made of those who were subsequently drowning and who were hacked to death. None of this suggests a “fishing for men” topos. A surface battle, between people on ships, and then hacking those that were drowning. Nothing suggests that the author even had an image of “fishing for men” in mind — even if we were to allow the hidden thoughts of an author to enter a serious discussion.”
Moreover, notice above that you essentially admit to your condition with the statement: “even if we were to allow the hidden thoughts of an author to enter a serious discussion.” Since analysis to determine if a metaphor exists questions if an author engaged in ‘hidden thoughts’ your fear of doing so reflects a condition of cognitive dissidence.
Beyond this, no matter how often I point it out, you seem to deliberately fail to comprehend that my theory is the revelation of a sequence, not a collection of random items. And since, for one of many reasons, sequence can affect comprehension, one cannot judge a typological sequence by a single element. Type Zero scholarship. A sequence can only be judged as a sequence and a real critique of CM begins with the sequence presented in the Flavian Signature chapter in the new edition.
For example, you did not – because evidentially you could not – respond to my point that if Josephus’ passage was in Exodus 6, Matthew’s ‘fishing for men’ metaphor would be universally recognized as having been linked to it. Isn’t this an obvious fact and doesn’t this just flat out negate your entire analysis?
However, I certainly don’t mind my thesis being subjected to incoherent criticism. It happens all the time and I am certain it’s a more enjoyable waste of time than writing books that will only be bought by family members who, sensibly, won’t read them.
Hope this is clarifying,
Before you decide to continue throwing around psychological analyses, Joe, I request you have a look at our comment moderation statement and stick to the principles there.
Just on your first point:
I felt no need to address your particular point explicitly because I (wrongly) assumed that it was obvious that I don’t believe there are real parallels to begin with. Seeing them in a matching sequence assumes that they exist as real parallels to begin with. If there is no fishing for men parallel in the passage I have discussed then there is no “matching sequence” to get excited about.
It’s valid logic. It is not a non sequitur.
My question was asking you to “explain what other phenomena than dependency could explain the sequence I maintain random sampling would reveal.”
Please explain how answering the question by repeating your opinion of one of the parallels was not a non sequitur.
If there are no parallels to sequence then there is no sequence of parallels.
Okay, Joe, I have read through your comment and have decided to put your comments on moderation if you continue in future with your psychological accusations. That was not an invitation for you to characterize me as manic or anything else.
I have said all I have to say in response to your point about sequences in my previous comment.
As for your other points, I refer you to what Type 1 scholarship actually involves. You continue to simply argue your own POV without any apparent awareness of other explanations for the texts that are in fact based on demonstrable (not speculative) evidence. Simply ignoring scholarship that cuts the rug from under your own interpretations of passages in the gospels is not an appropriate way to make a scholarly argument.
Only if you suggest the image yourself, Joe. The image is not implicit or explicit in the text.
It is entirely possible that the author, Josephus, was thinking of the fishing comparison, but we don’t know. And he left us nothing in the scene to alert readers to twig to that image. It is also entirely possible he had no such image on mind. So without evidence to confirm our assertion of a parallel we cannot assume there is a parable let alone build a case on the speculated parallel.
The massacre is against those on boats and some who were drowning were hacked to death. There is no “fishing” symbolism implied unless you introduce it yourself from your own imagination. Other uses of fishing for men in the gospels and Jeremiah imply nets and a gathering of people for judgment, the good sorted from the bad, or to be taken into exile. That’s quite different from anything in the Josephus passage.
Mind-reading is not a valid technique in literary analysis.
Hope I will not be punished with moderation for pointing this out but you have not responded to a number of my points. I was hoping you would respond to my third effort to get you run my thought experiment as I believe it may clear up some confusion over how the parallels are constructed and how sequence influences their ability to be comprehended.
Simply insert Josephus’ ‘fishing for men’ passage as a new Exodus 40 and then ask unsuspecting friends and family member to comment on whether or not they see the new parallel as part of the overall system.
Takes five minutes.
Please post the results here so we can compare them those I and others have gotten.
Gen 45 Joseph goes to Egypt Matt 2:13 Joseph goes to Egypt
Exodus 1 Pharaoh massacres boys Matt 2:16 Herod massacres boys
Ex 4 They are dead who sought your life Matt 2:20 They are dead who sought the child’s life
Ex 12 From Egypt to Israel Matt 2:21 From Egypt to Israel
Ex Passing through water Matt 3: 13 Passing through water
Ex Wilderness – Tempted by bread Matt 4; 4 Wilderness – Tempted by bread
Ex 17Wilderness – Do not tempt God Matt 4:7 Wilderness – Do not tempt God
Ex 32 Wilderness – Worship only God Matt 4:10 Wilderness – Worship only God
Exodus 40: 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;” Matt 4: 18 Sea of Galilee – Fishing for men
The parallels between Exodus and Matthew are explicit. They are derived from words found in the respective texts.
If you insert at random any text in Exodus 40 a reader will naturally try to find some relevance to it being there, and so will be looking for something that does fit, like a fishing scene in metaphor.
But that’s not a valid method. That is stacking the deck, pushing a reader to see what you want them to see. That is, you can only imply that the Josephus passage belongs there if you first condition a reader to interpret it through a fishing metaphor. That is not a valid method of literary comparison.
Valid methods in all studies that I know of in the scholarly literature rely upon explicit evidence, not assumptions about what an author might have been thinking. For reasons already stated there is no valid reason that I know of that would lead a reader to assume that the passage in Josephus is comparable to the fishing (with nets!) image for exile or judgement between good and bad as per the gospels and Jeremiah.
If Josephus wanted us to call to mind what we read in those Jeremiah or gospel passages then he failed. He may have wanted us to, but he left us no evidence to do so. So we cannot build a case on our speculating what he wanted us recall or bring to mind.
On bringing the fishing for men image to mind when reading Josephus’s account of the “mopping up” stage of a battle between ships, I think any argument should be tested against alternative explanations because the image of fishing is not explicit in the text, but is an imaginative interpretation of the text.
Recalling good old Bayesian analysis once again, we need to compare alternative interpretations and see which one the evidence best points to.
Another possible metaphor that comes to mind in reading the Josephan sentence is the slaying of the sea monster. We have such stories going back to the myths of Marduk, and again in Homer’s Odyssey. They are also implicit in the Genesis account of creation and other passages in the Hebrew Bible.
Might not such images be closer to the details Josephus gives us?
Another possible interpretation is that Josephus intended to bring to mind no such metaphors but was attempting to shock the reader with the horror of the image of the fate of the Jewish rebels. We know, for example, that Josephus did write in part to leave a morality tale about his nation: by rebelling against the divine order. so to speak, they were deserving of such a fate.
So far, then, we have three interpretative options. Does any phrase or image in the text favour or disfavour any one of these options?
To your points:
“The parallels between Exodus and Matthew are explicit.”
No, please consider the ‘Passing through water’ parallel. It is conceptual and can only be seen via its location within the sequence. Further, the stories containing the ‘Joseph goes to Egypt’ parallel are too oblique to be seen as in any way parallel without being contained within a sequence. This is demonstrated by the fact that until Goulder pointed the typological system out no one – to my knowledge – had ever commented on it.
“They are derived from words found in the respective texts.”
No, again consider the ‘Passing through water’ conceptual parallel. The author is using the explicit parallels to create a sequence whereby his conceptual parallels will become visible.
”If you insert at random any text in Exodus 40 a reader will natural try to find some relevance to it being there, and so will be looking for something that does fit, like a fishing scene in metaphor. “
Exactly! Sequence creates coherency, as in the case if the “Passing through Water’ parallel that can only be seen when its placed within a sequence of parallels. This is the methodology of the author of the Moses/Jesus typological system.
Please note that any random passage would not create parallelism. The percentage of passages that would create a coherent connection – one that would be seen by greater than a random number of readers – to the ‘fishing for men’ metaphor is infinitesimal.
”But that’s not a valid method. That is stacking the deck, pushing a reader to see what you want them to see.”
It is not only a valid method; it is the only method with which conceptual parallels within a typological sequence can be seen. It is the only method that enables a reader to see the ‘Passing through water’ parallel above. The author is using the explicit parallels to create a sequence whereby his conceptual parallels will become visible. A main point of my thought experiment was to demonstrate to you this interpretive framework.
“Valid methods in all studies that I know of in the scholarly literature rely upon explicit evidence, not assumptions about what an author might have been thinking.”
The dependency I maintain exists between Josephus and the Gospels can be demonstrated by random sampling showing that the sequence could not have been created by chance – for example the ‘fishing for men parallel. All other interpretive frameworks rely on conjectures about the thinking of authors belonging to a group for which there is no explicit evidence of even existing.
“If Josephus wanted us to call to mind what we read in those Jeremiah or gospel passages then he failed.”
Neil, you are driving me crazy. Josephus is writing a history with a straight face. Matthew is the one creating the metaphor. A search for metaphor linkage is easier and different when you begin from the metaphor.
“He may have wanted us to, but he left us no evidence to do so we cannot build a case on our speculating what he wanted us recall or bring to mind.”
I do not build my case through speculation. We use the same method of random sampling to demonstrate parallelism for the ‘fishing for men’ parallel, as one would do for the ‘passing through water’ conceptual parallel in the Moses/Jesus typology. We would then place the verified parallel into an establish sequence of explicit parallels as proof of the dependency.
The Gospels are a Roman mockery of Jewish prefiguration typology. This is the hardest mental shift for mythicists to make and is why you and I so often talk past one another. Someone reading the Gospels with this cynical framework would have no trouble seeing the parallelism between Matthew’s and Josephus’s ‘fishing for men’ passages.
To help the transition I wanted to present an example of Roman ‘ typological mockery humor’ in the Gospels and Josephus – the triumphant entrance.
The Gospels and Josephus share a typological sequence leading up to their Triumphant Entrances. Just to get a reader into the rhythm of the thing a few examples are given below,
23) Divide the group 3 for 2
And thus that sedition, which had been divided into three factions, was now reduced to two. Wars of the Jews, 5, 3, 104-105
“Do [you] suppose that I came to give peace on earth?
“I tell you, not at all, but rather division.
“For from now on five in one house will be divided: three against two, and two against three.” Luke 12:51-53
24) Cut down the fruit tree
‘And if it bears fruit, [well]. But if not, after that you can cut it down.’ ” Luke 13:6-9
So they threw down all the hedges and walls which the inhabitants had made about their gardens and groves of trees, and cut down all the fruit trees. . . Wars of the Jews 5, 3, 106-107
26) How to build a tower
“For which of you, intending to build a tower, does not sit down first and count the cost, whether he has [enough] to finish [it — ]
“lest, after he has laid the foundation, and is not able to finish, all who see [it] begin to mock him,
“saying, ‘This man began to build and was not able to finish.’ ” Luke 14: 28-30
Titus went round the wall looking for the best place to build a tower
Wars of the Jews, 5, 6, 258
27) Send a delegation to make peace
“Or else, while the other is still a great way off, he sends a delegation and asks conditions of peace.” Luke 14:31-32
. . . Josephus . . . attempted to discourse to those that were upon the wall, about terms of peace . . . Wars of the Jews, 5, 6, 261
Now both storylines describe a Triumphant Entrance, When read as typologically linked, Josephus is is obviously mocking the Gospel’s story,
INSIDE THE CITY
28) The triumphal entrance and the stones that cried out
Luke then describes Jesus triumphant entrance into Jerusalem. In the passage, Luke describes “stones” that “cry out,” and then that which was “hidden from the eyes”.
And they threw their own clothes on the colt, and they set Jesus on him.
And as He went, [many] spread their clothes on the road.
Then, as He was now drawing near the descent of the Mount of Olives, the whole multitude of the disciples began to rejoice and praise God with a loud voice for all the mighty works they had seen,
saying: ” ‘Blessed [is] the King who comes in the name of the LORD! Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!’ ”
And some of the Pharisees called to Him from the crowd, “Teacher, rebuke Your disciples.”
But He answered and said to them, “I tell you that if these should keep silent, the stones would immediately cry out.”
Now as He drew near, He saw the city and wept over it,
saying, “If you had known, even you, especially in this your day, the things [that make] for your peace! But now they are hidden from your eyes.
Luke 19: 35-42
Josephus then describes Titus’ “triumphant entrance” into Jerusalem. In other words, Josephus describes Titus’ “entrance” into the city, which were the stones hurled by catapults. In the passage, Josephus made an apparent mistake writing the “Son Cometh” rather than the “Stone Cometh”. Though the apparent error has puzzled scholars, this analysis makes the satirical and typological meaning of Josephus’ “error” clear. Notice that Josephus first describes “the coming of the stone”, then a stone that “cries out,” and finally he recorded that the “son/stone” was “hidden from your (the Jews’) eyes”. It is amusing that in Whiston’s translation below he inadvertently, but correctly, captures the real meaning of Josephus’ wordplay concerning “stones crying out” with his phrase – “and the stone came from it, and cried out aloud”. In other words, the Greek statement can be logically read in two ways; one way is just as Jesus predicted – the stones cried out. Notice also, that what the stones would “cry out” in the Gospels, was the true identity of the son of God. This is exactly what Josephus recorded the “stone” did in the passage below.
The sequence of concepts in this passage creates a clearly obvious typological connection to the “stones that cried out” passage in Luke 19 when viewed from this new perspective.
The engines, that all the legions had ready prepared for them, were admirably contrived; but still more extraordinary ones belonged to the tenth legion: those that threw darts and those that threw stones were more forcible and larger than the rest, by which they not only repelled the excursions of the Jews, but drove those away that were upon the walls also.
Now the stones that were cast were of the weight of a talent, and were carried two furlongs and further. The blow they gave was no way to be sustained, not only by those that stood first in the way, but by those that were beyond them for a great space.
As for the Jews, they at first watched the coming of the stone, for it was of a white color, and could therefore not only be perceived by the great noise it made, but could be seen also before it came by its brightness;
accordingly the watchmen that sat upon the towers gave them notice when the engine was let go, and the stone came from it, and cried out aloud, in their own country language, “THE SON COMETH” so those that were in its way stood off, and threw themselves down upon the ground; by which means, and by their thus guarding themselves, the stone fell down and did them no harm.
Now Josephus describes how the stone was “hidden from your eyes”.
But the Romans contrived how to prevent that by blacking the stone, who then could aim at them with success, when the stone was not discerned beforehand, as it had been till then; and so they destroyed many of them at one blow. Wars of the Jews 5, 6, 269-273
Note that in Hebrew son is “ben” and stone is “eben”. The pun on these words used in the passage above was established earlier in the Gospels:
“. . . and do not think to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as [our] father.’ For I say to you that God is able to raise up sons to Abraham from these stones.
Matt 3: 9
The fact that until CM the two triumphant entrance stories have never been studied as potentially linked typology is an oversight because the very next story in the Josephus and the Gospels is completely accepted as being linked.
29) Jerusalem encircled with a wall
“For days will come upon you when your enemies will build an embankment around you, surround you and close you in on every side, Luke 19:43-44
they must build a wall round about the whole city; Wars of the Jews, 5, 12, 499-501
One can argue that the weird “the Son Cometh” parallelism between the two triumphant entrance stories was accidental but this is more difficult when both stories occur directly before demonstrably linked ones.
Mark:62 “I am,” said Jesus, “and you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of Power and coming with the clouds of heaven.”
Hmm, a large stone hurled over the wall by a catapult like device could be described as coming with the clouds of heaven. You forgot to mention that one.
Catching fish isn’t like catching a ball, or catching fireflies. When you catch fish you kill them. Fishing is killing fish, fishers kill fish. Fishers kill them in the water or pull them out and kill them. You know “The Odyssey” was used in the New Testament. “Then from the rocks they hurled down ponderous stones; and soon among the men arose a dreadful din of dying men and crashing ships. As men spear fish, they gathered in their loathsome meal.”
“It is further worth pointing out that most of the battle on the lake is depicted as a surface battle, people throwing projectiles from ships, or being rammed by ships. Only in the last sentence is there a mention made of those who were subsequently drowning and who were hacked to death. None of this suggests a “fishing for men” topos. A surface battle, between people on ships, and then hacking those that were drowning. Nothing suggests that the author even had an image of “fishing for men” in mind — even if we were to allow the hidden thoughts of an author to enter a serious discussion.”
Fishers don’t go underwater to fish. They fish from the shoreline or on a boat or ship. “Surface battle”, naval warfare?
Even the Jewish verse you posit inspired “fishers of men” strengthens Atwill’s understanding.
Ezekiel 47:10 is literally talking about fishers of abundant fish. It’s only later understood as a metaphor for future Christian proselytizers and converts because the Gospel parodies it.
Jeremiah 16:16 New International Version (NIV)
16 “But now I will send for many fishermen,” declares the Lord, “and they will catch them. After that I will send for many hunters, and they will hunt them down on every mountain and hill and from the crevices of the rocks.
Um, that’s a threat to kill. Not the Christian understanding of evangelizing.
Cannibalism is a dominant mode of revenge in Greco-Roman literature, such as Ovid’s “Metamorphoses”, and Seneca’s “Thyestes”. The men fished in “The Odyssey” were cannibalized. Jesus’s words have the same meaning “I will make you fishers of men (cannibals).”
The Jeremiah image is clearly not the Marcan image. The author of the gospel has inverted the Jeremiah metaphor and turned it from an image of death to an image of salvation. Jesus never ordered his disciples to kill anyone. Your explanation makes a kind of technical sense — and one I once tried to entertain myself — but it ignores the context and it is context that determines meaning. (Your account of Josephus’s narrative further reads a lot of fishing tropes into the actual details Josephus himself sets down. For example, most of the enemy of the Romans simply drowned indirectly as a result of Roman action. That’s not “fishing” by any account.)
Ditto for the calling of the disciples themselves. The call is modelled on Elijah’s call of Elisha, and Elisha was ordered to kill as part of his mission. Mark has turned the message of death in the pre 70 CE scriptures into images of life.
Clearly not. The Gospel (Evangelion-“Good News of Military Victory”) author inverts Jewish scripture for comedic effect. Drowning of enemies in naval warfare is the opposite of indirect action. Let’s return to the relevant scene in “The Odyssey”…
“But all the other ships went down together there”.
Now “Wars of the Jews”…
“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; but if, in the desperate case they were in, they attempted to swim to their enemies, the Romans cut off either their heads or their hands . . . (p. 39)”
The Gospels detail Jesus wasn’t a paternal descendant of King David, a messianic requirement. Jesus was the Malachi (not John the Baptist, see John 1:21-25), like Elijah and his successor Elisha, of Titus, who did kill (fish) at the Sea of Galilee. Jesus’s apostles are caricatures of defeated messianic leaders..
1 Corinthians 4:9 New International Version (NIV)
9 For it seems to me that God has put us apostles on display at the end of the procession, like those condemned to die in the arena. We have been made a spectacle to the whole universe, to angels as well as to human beings.
At the Sea of Galilee Jesus calls them to become cannibals.
Your imagination is sweeping you well away from both the words of Josephus and the words of Jesus. Fishing is about catching fish by bringing them to land. It is not fishing to go out to a lake and just spear fish or kill whatever you can see near the surface and just leave them there to rot. That’s not a fishing image. Not even a “fishing for men” image. It simply isn’t. Fishing is taking fish in to land.
Read the verses preceding Jeremiah 16:16. The fishing metaphor refers to deporting people from one land to another. That’s the basis of the Jesus metaphor: bringing people from one realm or land to a new place, the kingdom of God.
If you see any comedy there I suggest again you are forcing an unnatural “humour” into it. There is no humour. There is no comedy.
Being a son of David was not a messianic criterion except as one possibility entertained by some Judeans but certainly not by all. Other alternatives were that the messiah was to be a son of Levi or a son of Joseph, or a heavenly being to come to earth, or Enoch himself, and so forth.
It is a bizarre reading to suggest Jesus calls his disciples to “become cannibals”.
In apocalyptic imagery such as the Book of Revelation the sea and flood represents death, as it does in OT narratives, too. In the Gospel of Mark it liikewise represents a place of demons, death, — a place Jesus traverses on foot without even a boat, a place that represents the joining of Jews and Gentiles and that is regularly crossed to reach each group. To fish for men is to bring people out of the world of death and join them to be with Jesus and his followers instead — the kingdom of God being “at hand” in them.
Surely that concept far more cogently fits a fishing image than stabbing fish at sea and leaving whatever you can “catch” that way (not many!) in the sea to drown and rot.
A Passover Lamb is eaten. Jesus, “the Lamb of God”, is a human Passover Lamb. He was born in a barn, then placed in a trough, what animals eat from.
Exodus 12:46 New International Version (NIV)
46 “It must be eaten inside the house; take none of the meat outside the house. Do not break any of the bones.
John 19:33-36 New International Version (NIV)
33 But when they came to Jesus and found that he was already dead, they did not break his legs. 34 Instead, one of the soldiers pierced Jesus’ side with a spear, bringing a sudden flow of blood and water. 35 The man who saw it has given testimony, and his testimony is true. He knows that he tells the truth, and he testifies so that you also may believe. 36 These things happened so that the scripture would be fulfilled: “Not one of his bones will be broken,”
Jesus also equates himself to other food eaten by Jews..
John 6:51-66 New International Version (NIV)
51 I am the living bread that came down from heaven. Whoever eats this bread will live forever. This bread is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world.”
52 Then the Jews began to argue sharply among themselves, “How can this man give us his flesh to eat?”
53 Jesus said to them, “Very truly I tell you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you. 54 Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise them up at the last day. 55 For my flesh is real food and my blood is real drink. 56 Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me, and I in them. 57 Just as the living Father sent me and I live because of the Father, so the one who feeds on me will live because of me. 58 This is the bread that came down from heaven. Your ancestors ate manna and died, but whoever feeds on this bread will live forever.” 59 He said this while teaching in the synagogue in Capernaum.
Many Disciples Desert Jesus
60 On hearing it, many of his disciples said, “This is a hard teaching. Who can accept it?”
61 Aware that his disciples were grumbling about this, Jesus said to them, “Does this offend you? 62 Then what if you see the Son of Man ascend to where he was before! 63 The Spirit gives life; the flesh counts for nothing. The words I have spoken to you—they are full of the Spirit and life. 64 Yet there are some of you who do not believe.” For Jesus had known from the beginning which of them did not believe and who would betray him. 65 He went on to say, “This is why I told you that no one can come to me unless the Father has enabled them.”
66 From this time many of his disciples turned back and no longer followed him.
The appalled reaction of Jesus’s lost disciples elucidates his literal (satiric) meaning. It is the purpose of Communion.
You really don’t see caught fish are killed? In your eyes, did Hebrew fisherman transfer their “catch” to live elsewhere?
Also, Jesus wasn’t any of the messianic alternatives you mentioned. Neither was he King nor High Priest. Jesus was called many things, but he never claimed to have those titles..
Mark 8:28 New International Version (NIV)
28 They replied, “Some say John the Baptist; others say Elijah; and still others, one of the prophets.” Jesus also explicitly tells his followers not to tell others he’s the Messiah. Further, Jesus didn’t tell Pilate he was King (“That is what you say of me.”).
Oh, Peter, do be serious. I have addressed head on your interpretation now if you want to continue a discussion stop simply repeating yourself while blithely ignoring the counter-arguments to your interpretations. It’s supposed to be a dialogue. If you just wish to repeat your monologue without due regard for the arguments against it then you are wasting everyone’s time.
(Sorry, you don’t completely ignore the counter arguments. You rephrase them in a way that completely distorts and denies or ignores what I actually said.)
Your counter arguments are nonsensical. For example, “caught” fish aren’t relocated to live elsewhere. Catching fish entails killing them.
Omg, Peter. Do read the arguments, not just the few words here and there so that you rearrange my argument into something I never said or implied, but read whole sentences. After reading one complete sentence in full go on to read the next one, in full, and so on. Treat them like a classroom exercise in reading comprehension.
I believe I have been responsive to your replies. The Sea of Galilee is a lake, and the very reason it is named a Sea in the Synoptic Gospels is to make it as a sea voyaged in “The Odyssey”. This is why Jesus’s call to his apostles to become “fishers of men” should be understood in the context of their being cannibals in “The Odyssey”.
From Marcion’s Gospel of the Lord. “Fear not” etc Is Marcion implying they had been catching dead men?
And when they had this done, they inclosed a great multitude of fishes:
and their net brake.
7 And they beckoned unto their partners, which were in the other ship,
that they should come and help them.
And they came, and filled both the ships, so that they began to sink.
8 When Simon Peter saw it, he fell down at Jesus’ knees, saying,
Depart from me; for I am a sinful man, O Lord.
9 For he was astonished, and all that were with him,
at the draught of the fishes which they had taken:
10 And so was also James, and John, the sons of Zebedee,
which were partners with Simon.
And Jesus said unto Simon,
Fear not; from henceforth thou shalt catch men alive.