Better Informed History for Atheists — Scholars assess the Two Jesus Parallels

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by Neil Godfrey

A week ago James McGrath alerted readers to a new post by Tim O’Neill of History for Atheists commending it for its take down of “amalgam Jesus” theorists for supposedly uncritically and emotionally concocting excuses to disbelieve in a historical Jesus. It has taken me a week since that alert but I have finally caught up with O’Neill’s Jesus Mythicism 4: Jesus as an Amalgam of Many Figures. His primary target is one L. Aron Nelson a.k.a “Aron Ra” 9 whom he presents as someone bearing

all the hallmarks of someone who has educated himself on the subject, without much idea of what is scholarly and credible and what is not.

Scholarly discussion at XTalk (Crosstalk) on the parallels between Jesus ben Ananias and Jesus of Nazareth was active in 2003 and again in 2005.

With that introduction we should expect to be informed of some of the scholarly responses to the ensuing arguments he critiques. (To avoid an over lengthy post I will focus on but one point in O’Neill’s essay and that will be his rebuttal of the claim that the Jesus of the gospels was to some extent based on Jesus of Ananias in Josephus’s account of the Jewish War, written some time between 74 and 79 CE. Other points can be addressed separately if warranted.)

Despite O’Neill’s attempt to address one who in his eyes had not “much idea of what is scholarly” and “credible” in the eyes of scholars, O’Neill himself fails to indicate that he has any awareness of the relevant scholarly discussions, let alone that those scholarly discussions essentially undermine almost everything he writes. His own attempts at take-down arguments have gained no traction among scholars engaged with this particular question. In this post I will provide the evidence from scholars that they do find the parallels significant and worthy of serious discussion with some suggesting that one Jesus was indeed in part based on the other.

Here is the Josephus passage with the key areas to be compared in red.

The Whiston translation of Josephus’ War of the Jews (6.300-309)

But, what is still more terrible, there was one Jesus, the son of Ananus, a plebeian and a husbandman, who, four years before the war began, and at a time when the city was in very great peace and prosperity, came to that feast whereon it is our custom for every one to make tabernacles to God in the temple, began on a sudden to cry aloud, “A voice from the east, a voice from the west, a voice from the four winds, a voice against Jerusalem and the holy house, a voice against the bridegrooms and the brides, and a voice against this whole people!” (Jer.7:34 LXX) This was his cry, as he went about by day and by night, in all the lanes of the city. However, certain of the most eminent among the populace had great indignation at this dire cry of his, and took up the man, and gave him a great number of severe stripes; yet did not he either say any thing for himself, or any thing peculiar to those that chastised him, but still went on with the same words which he cried before. Hereupon our rulers, supposing, as the case proved to be, that this was a sort of divine fury in the man, brought him to the Roman procurator, where he was whipped till his bones were laid bare; yet he did not make any supplication for himself, nor shed any tears, but turning his voice to the most lamentable tone possible, at every stroke of the whip his answer was, “Woe, woe to Jerusalem!” And when Albinus (for he was then our procurator) asked him, Who he was? and whence he came? and why he uttered such words? he made no manner of reply to what he said, but still did not leave off his melancholy ditty, till Albinus took him to be a madman, and dismissed him. Now, during all the time that passed before the war began, this man did not go near any of the citizens, nor was seen by them while he said so; but he every day uttered these lamentable words, as if it were his premeditated vow, “Woe, woe to Jerusalem!” Nor did he give ill words to any of those that beat him every day, nor good words to those that gave him food; but this was his reply to all men, and indeed no other than a melancholy presage of what was to come. This cry of his was the loudest at the festivals; and he continued this ditty for seven years and five months, without growing hoarse, or being tired therewith, until the very time that he saw his presage in earnest fulfilled in our siege, when it ceased; for as he was going round upon the wall, he cried out with his utmost force, “Woe, woe to the city again, and to the people, and to the holy house!” And just as he added at the last, “Woe, woe to myself also!” there came a stone out of one of the engines, and smote him, and killed him immediately; and as he was uttering the very same presages he gave up the ghost.

Tim O’Neill associates the argument with Richard Carrier and appears not to be aware that Carrier was presenting a well-known observation among professional scholars.

Here at least we have someone called Jesus who is obviously not Jesus of Nazareth and his story has at least some parallels with elements in the Jesus stories. The argument that these parallels indicate derivation and that the story of Jesus was in part based on that of ben Ananus is articulated in detail by … Richard Carrier

Carrier actually credits the argument to two other highly renowned scholars, Theodore J. Weeden, Sr. and Craig Evans:

Indeed, even how Mark decides to construct the sequence of the Passover narrative appears to be based on the tale of another Jesus: Jesus ben Ananias, the ‘Jesus of Jerusalem’, an insane prophet active in the 60s ce who is then killed in the siege of Jerusalem (roughly in the year 70). His story is told by Josephus in the Jewish War, and unless Josephus invented him, his narrative must have been famous, famous enough for Josephus to know of it, and thus famous enough for Mark to know of it, too, and make use of it to model the tale of his own Jesus. Or if Josephus invented the tale then Mark evidently used Josephus as a source. Because the parallels are too numerous to be at all probable as a coincidence.86 Some Mark does derive from elsewhere (or matches from elsewhere to a double purpose), but the overall scheme of the story in Josephus matches Mark too closely to believe that Mark just came up with the exact same scheme independently. And since it’s not believable that Josephus invented a new story using Mark, we must conclude Mark invented his story using Josephus—or the same tale known to Josephus. . . . There are at least twenty significant parallels (and one reversal)…

86. Theodore Weeden, ‘Two Jesuses, Jesus of Jerusalem and Jesus of Nazareth: Provocative Parallels and Imaginative Imitation’, Forum N.S. 6.2 (Fall 2003), pp. 137- 341; Craig Evans, ‘Jesus in Non-Christian Sources’, in Studying the Historical Jesus (ed. Chilton and Evans), pp. 443-78 (475-77).

(Carrier, 428-29)

Given the tone of Tim O’Neill’s study up to this point a reader will expect to be led to a conclusion that “Carrier’s parallels” (they are in fact the parallels presented by scholars in the peer-reviewed scholarly literature) are going to be proved nonsensical or at best without significance. Will O’Neill’s rebuttals equally apply to two highly notable New Testament scholars, Weeden and Evans?

Carrier’s list of parallels are derived from Weeden so in the interests of presenting as fully as possible what is found among the peer-reviewed scholarly publications I will give here Evans’ list of parallels from another essay of his (I do not yet have access to the one Carrier cited):

There are several important parallels between the temple-related experiences of Jesus of Nazareth and Jesus son of Ananias.

Both entered the precincts of the temple (το ιερόν: Mark 11:11. 15. 27; 12:35; 13:1; 14:49; J.W. 6.5.3 §301)

at the time of a religious festival (έορτη: Mark 14:2; 15:6: John 2:23; J.W. 6.5.3 §300).

Both spoke of the doom of Jerusalem (Luke 19:41-44: 21:20-24; J.W. 6.5.3 §301),

the sanctuary (ναός: Mark 13:2; 14:58; J.W. 6.5.3 §301),

and the people (λαός: Mark 13:17; Luke 19:44; 23:28-31; J.W. 6.5.3 §301).

Both apparently alluded to Jeremiah 7, where the prophet condemned the temple establishment of his day (“cave of robbers”: Jer 7:11 in Mark 11:17: “the voice against the bridegroom and the bride”: Jer 7:34 in J.W. 6.5.3 §301).

Both were “arrested” by the authority of Jewish—not Roman—leaders (συλλαμβάνει v: Mark 14:48: John 18:12; J.W. 6.5.3 §302).

Both were beaten by the Jewish authorities (παίεν: Matt 26:68: Mark 14:65; J.W. 6.5.3 §302).

Both were handed over to the Roman governor (ήγαγον αυτόν επί τον Πιλάτον: Luke 23:1; άνάγουσιν… επί τον… έπαρχον: J.W. 6.5.3 §303).

Both were interrogated by the Roman governor (ειτωτάν: Mark 15:4; J.W. 6.5.3 §305).

Both refused to answer to the governor (ουδεν άχοκρινεσθαι: Mark 15:5; J.W. 6.5.3 §305).

Both were scourged by the governor (μαστιγοϋν / μαστις: John 19:1; J.W. 6.5.3 §304).

Governor Pilate may have offered to release Jesus of Nazareth, but did not; Governor Albinus did release Jesus son of Ananias (απολύει v: Mark 15:9: J.W. 6.5.3 §305)

(Evans, 106)

The discussion among scholars, we shall see, is over how best to explain these very obvious parallels. Evans argued that the parallels are explained by the standard judicial procedures of the day: that is, both Jesus ben Ananias and Jesus of Nazareth went through the same standard judicial processes, that’s all. O’Neill argues for the same explanation even while simultaneously trying to say the parallels are not “strong enough”, but are “too flimsy” to suggest that one Jesus was in part based on the account of the other. In other words, O’Neill himself argues on the one hand that the parallels are “too flimsy” but on the other hand he offers an explanation for their obvious (not so flimsy) reality.

O’Neill says that the name Jesus is “not much of a parallel” because the name was very common.

To begin with, both figures being named Jesus (1) is not much of a parallel given how common that name was.

Do you see the logical confusion here? Two people having the same name is a very real and very strong parallel indeed. What O’Neill is doing is saying that he can find an explanation for that obvious parallel that does not require us to think that one person was modeled on the other. And of course that explanation is 100% correct — if that’s all there was to compare. O’Neill is overlooking the point that we are entitled to at least have a second look at accounts of a person by the same name doing and experiencing broadly similar things. There’s a multiplier factor in there somewhere.

O’Neill comes across as too keen to go for the jugular of anything he thinks smells of mythicism so that he ends up arguing from two contradictory positions: on the one hand trying to demonstrate that the parallels are “too flimsy” to be valid and on the other hand trying to present alternative explanations for parallels that are plainly evident and obvious.

Again overlooking the way the gospels elide Passover festival and Tabernacle festival themes in their portrayal of Jesus’ last days in Jerusalem, O’Neill claims to find no significance in the common detail of the two Jesuses declaiming against the Temple at a festival season. Yes, each one on its own is not unusual. But again, we have a multiplier effect. The name Jesus along with a Jeremiad against the temple along with a major religious festival — surely innocent bystanders are entitled to take some notice and wonder if there is to be any interesting revelation at the end.

Then we have the tiringly common assertion that “differences” outweigh “similarities”. Rubbish. If there were no differences we would not have any comparisons to compare. We would be staring at identical copies of the very same document or work of literature. What is especially interesting is when similarities can explain the differences and vice versa. But we have covered that theme so often already in our posts on comparative literary analysis relating to ancient literature generally and the gospels in particular.

Anyway, that’s not what I promised at the beginning of this post. Let’s have a look at what scholars themselves say about these parallels (not only Evans, but Weeden and their peers) and what they find credible.

Theodore Weeden:

As I examined closely Evans’ list of parallels between the Gospel accounts of Jesus and Josephus’ depiction of Jesus, son Ananias, I found the parallels identified by Evans to be both convincing and very striking. In fact, when I turned, subsequently, to read the Loeb Classical Library full text of Josephus’ story of Jesus, son of Ananias— Evans provided only an abridged translation in his _Jesus_ — I discovered also additional parallels between the two Jesuses which Evans’ apparently missed.

Now recall that we noted Evans’ conclusion that the (very real) parallels do nothing more than point to two different persons undergoing a similar set of experiences. Here is Weeden’s response to that point:

In my judgment, Evans’ contention that “[t]here is no indication that the story of one Jesus influenced the telling of the story of the other Jesus,” is brought into question by the additional parallels I have found between the two “Jesus” stories.

So it is a legitimate scholarly response to conclude that some form or influence between two narratives (written or oral) offers the best explanation for the parallels. We will see that Weeden is not alone.

Weeden offers his own list of parallels:

D. Parallels between Josephus’ Portrayal of Jesus, son of Ananias, and Mark’s Portrayal of Jesus

Here now is a complete list of the extensive parallels that I find between Josephus’ portrayal of the Jesus, son of Ananias and the Markan Jesus, a list which includes all the parallels which Evans identified as parallels inherent to Mark’s Gospel…

(1) Both primary subjects of the two stories are named “Jesus” ( _J.W._, VI. 300; Mark, passim).

(2) Jesus, son of Ananias, is depicted by Josephus as TWN IDIWTWN AGROIKOS (translated by Thackeray as “a rude peasant”:_J.W._, VI, 301). That means, at least in Josephus’ eyes, that Ananias’ son Jesus was an unskilled, boorish person. [Note: H. G. Liddell and R. Scott, _Greek-English Lexicon_ (1996), 819, define IDIWTNS , variously, as one who has “no professional knowledge,” “unpracticed, unskilled,” a “raw hand, ignoramus” and they suggest (15) that the term AGROIKOS is used to depict someone who is “rustic,” “boorish,” “rude.”]

The Markan Jesus is identified by Mark as a TEKNWN (“carpenter,” 6:3). In other words, Mark considered Jesus to be an artisan, which means that Mark placed Jesus in a social class (constituting about 5% of the population) which ranked below peasants and just above the Degraded and Expendable, the lowest classes in the Mediterranean world of Jesus’ time (see John Dominic Crossan, _Jesus: A Biography _, 23-25).

(3) Both Jesus, the son of Ananias, ( _J.W._, VI. 301) and the Markan Jesus (Mk. 3:22) are presumed by Jerusalemite leaders to be demon-possessed.

(4) Both Jesuses are thought to be deranged by certain people. Jesus, son of Ananias, is dubbed MANIAN (“a maniac”) by Albinus, the Roman procurator (_J.W._, VI. 305), and the Markan Jesus is declared EXESTH (“out of his mind”) by certain people, a view apparently shared also by his family (Mk. 3:21f.).

(5) Both Jesuses are depicted at least for some period of time as being daily in the Temple. Jesus, son of Ananias, is described by Josephus as KAQ’ hHMERAN (“daily”) in the Temple repeating “his lament, “Woe to Jerusalem” ( _J.W._, VI. 306), and the Markan Jesus reminds the arresting party in Gethsemane that “KAQ’ hHMERAN (“daily”) I was with you in the Temple teaching.”

(6) Both Jesuses are staged as present in the Temple (TO hIERPON; see _J.W._, VI.. 301 and Mk. 11:15-19) during the time of the holy festival(s) (EORTH; see _J.W._, VI..300 and Mk 14:2).

(7) Both Jesuses draw upon sections of Jeremiah 7— in which the prophet condemns the Temple, the people of Judah and Jerusalem— to frame their own respective condemnation of the Temple and or Jerusalem itself. Jesus, son of Ananias, makes Jer. 7:34 (“the voice of the bride and the bridegroom in the cities of Judah and in the streets of Jerusalem”) part of his woe-filled harangue against Jerusalem, the Temple and the people (_J.W._, VI. 301), and the Markan Jesus uses LXX Jer. 7:11 (SPHLAION LHSTWN [hUMEIS DE PEPOIHKATE, per Mark] hO OIKOS MOU: “a cave of robbers [or insurrectionists] you have made my house”), conflated with Isa. 56:7, to denounce the Judean Temple cultic practices (Mk. 11:17).

(8) Both Jesuses specifically pronounce woes (OUAI or AIAI) on the people (LAOS) of Jerusalem and/or Judea (_J.W._, VI. 304, 306, 309 and Mk. 13:17)

(9) Both Jesuses pronounce doom upon the Temple (NAOS) itself ( _J.W._, VI. 300, 309 and Mk. 13:2).

(10) Both Jesuses are arrested by or at the instigation of Jerusalem leaders. Jesus, son of Ananias, is arrested by some of Jerusalem’s leading or distinguished citizens (TWN . . . EPISHMWN TINES DHMOTWN: _J.W._, VI.. 302), and the Markan Jesus is arrested by an armed crowd sent by the chief priests, scribes and elders (Mk. 14:43).

(11) In their respective hearings before Jerusalem leaders (i.e., the “Jewish hearings”), each Jesus is either chastised for or accused of making an inflammatory pronouncement against the Temple. Jesus, son of Ananias, is chastised for “his ill-omened words” against the Temple, as well as the city and its people (_J.W._, VI. 302 ). The Markan Jesus is accused (but falsely so, according to Mark) of vowing that he would destroy the Temple and build another in three days (Mk. 14:58).

(12) Both Jesuses in their Jewish hearings keep their respective silence in the face of the charges made against them with regard to their respective pronouncements against the Temple (_J.W._, VI. 302 and Mk. 14:60f.).

(13) Both Jesuses are physically abused at their Jewish hearings. Jesus, the son of Ananias, is struck by certain ones (TOUS PAIONTAS) at his hearing (_J.W._, VI. 302 ). The Markan Jesus at his hearing is spit upon, people begin “to strike [KOLAFIZEIN] him” and “the guards [when it is all over] received him with blows” (Mk. 14:65).

(14) Following their respective Jewish hearings, both Jesuses are delivered over to the Roman procurator by Jerusalem authorities. In the case of Jesus, son of Ananias (Josephus _J.W._, VI. 302f.), he was “brought before the Roman governor,” Albinus, by hOI ARCONTES (“the rulers” or “magistrates,” as Thackeray translates the Greek term). The Markan Jesus is “delivered” to Pilate by the chief priests, the elders, scribes, and the whole counsel(?) (Mk. 15:1).

(15) In their respective hearings before the Roman governor (i.e., their “Roman hearings”), both Jesuses are interrogated by their respective governor: Jesus, son of Ananias, by Albinus (_J.W._, VI. 305) and the Markan Jesus by Pilate (Mk. 15:2-4).

(16) Both Jesuses are asked by the Roman governor in their Roman hearings to disclose their respective identities. Jesus, the son of Ananias, was asked by Albinus, TIS T’ EIH KAI POQEN (“who and whence he was:” _J.W._, VI. 305), and the Markan Jesus is asked by Pilate, SU EI hO BASILEUS TWN IOUDAIWN (“Are you the king of the Judeans?”: Mk.15:2).

(17) Each procurator, once having interrogated the Jesus brought before him, moves then to release “his Jesus.” In the case of Albinus, having “pronounced [Jesus, son of Ananias] a maniac,” APELUSEN AUTON (“released him” or “let him go,” as Thackeray translates the Greek: _J.W._, VI. 305). In the case of Pilate, he appears to move to release the Markan Jesus, but he leaves the decision to the crowd as to whether Jesus should be released. The crowd, having been stirred up by the chief priests to reject Pilate’s offer to release Jesus, demands that Jesus be crucified instead. Pilate acquiesces to their demand (Mk. 15:6-15).

(18) Both Jesuses are scourged at the conclusion of their respective Roman hearings. Jesus, son of Ananias, is scourged either by Albinus or by others in his presence (_J.W._, VI. 304), and the Markan Jesus is scourged by Pilate (15.15b).

(19) Both Jesuses are killed by the Roman soldiers. Jesus, son of Ananias, is, as fate would have it (cf. _J.W._, VI. 308: “he [Jesus, son of Ananias] found his rest”), killed by a stone “hurled from EK TOU PETROBOLOU (“the *ballista*,” a Roman catapult, siege-weapon: see _J.W._, VI, 309). The Markan Jesus is crucified by Roman soldiers (15:16, 20-24).

(20) Both Jesuses let out a woeful cry of personal woe just before dying. Jesus, son of Ananias, “while going his round and shouting in piercing tones from the wall, ‘Woe once more to the city and to the people and to the Temple,'” appends to his familiar mantra a word of personal woe. Namely, he cries out as the stone strikes him, “and woe to me also” (_J.W._, VI. 309). The Markan Jesus, at the ninth hour and just before dying, cries out from the cross a plaintive personal woe in a loud voice, namely: “My God, My God, why hast thou forsaken me?” (Mk. 15:34).

(21) Both Jesuses die with a loud cry. Jesus, son of Ananias, the piercing cry just cited “still upon his lips, THN YUCHN AFHKE” (“died”or “passed away,” as Thackeray translates the Greek: Josephus _J.W._, VI. 309), and the Markan Jesus, having “uttered a loud cry, EXEPNEUSEN” (“died” : Mk. 15:27).

(22) In both the “Jesus” stories, the term for Temple used in the syntax of their reputed pronouncements against the Temple is NAOS (_J.W._, VI. 301, 309 and Mk.14:58). This is a particularly interesting linguistic features the texts share in view of the fact that, except for this particular Markan linguistic parallel with the Josephus story, with respect to the use of NAOS as a term for Temple, Mark, otherwise routinely chooses to use the term hIEROS when he makes reference to the Temple in his narrative (11:11, 15, 16, 27; 12:35; 13:1,3; 14:49). Only in 14:58 (when the charge is presented— falsely so, according to Mark— that Jesus vowed that he would destroy the Temple), in 15:29, (where Jesus is mocked with that charge in the taunt at the cross: 15:29), and in 15:38 (where Mark seeks to vindicate Jesus’ attack on the Temple cult through the narration of the apparent divine rending of the Temple veil) does Mark choose to use NAOS as a term for the Temple rather than hIEROS.

In my judgment this significant list of 22 parallels is not only striking but stunning in its possible implications. Put quite simply: the parallelism existing between the two stories is provocative and demands an answer to the obvious question: How can one account for these 22 narrative points at which there are such a close parallels between Josephus’ story of Jesus, son of Ananias, and Mark’s story of Jesus?

The question raised is not the validity or reality of the parallels but how to explain them:

E. Possible Explanations for the Parallels between the Two “Jesus” Stories

As I see it there are four possible explanations for the existence of such close thematic and, in some instances, linguistic parallels between the Markan portrayal of Jesus and Josephus’ portrayal of Jesus, son of Ananias. The four possible explanations are the following:

(1) Pure coincidence. The apparent parallels between the two stories are but a matter of just pure coincidence. That is certainly possible, but I think, given the extensive number of close parallels between the two stories, it is highly unlikely that all 22 instances of parallelism can be chalked up to coincidence. .

Weeden thus counters one of O’Neill’s points. The second point zeroes in on both Evans’ and (to best of my understanding) O’Neill’s argument. I have bolded Weeden’s response:

(2) Normative character of conventional judicial and penal processes. As noted earlier on, Evans chose to account for the parallels, particularly linguistic parallels, which he detected between the two Jesus stories, as nothing more than “what one would expect.” To cite him again (361, n. 46): “[T]he ‘parallels’ comprise no more than nouns of place and context and verbs that mark the various steps in the judicial and penal process. In other words, the parallels are precisely what one would expect in cases where routine actions are being described.” In lieu of the additional parallels, beyond Evans’ “parallels,” which I have listed above, I think the close narrative correspondences (thematic and linguistic)— the similar narrative settings (Temple, festivals, Jewish hearing, Roman hearing) and similar narrative sequence of events (provocative pronouncement/act by the Jesus-subject in Temple precincts, the subject’s arrest by Jewish authorities, his Jewish hearing, deliverance to Roman governor, Roman hearing, refusal to respond to charges at hearings, death at the hands of the Romans, and finally the Jesus-subject’s evoking of a woeful loud cry at the moment of death)— which the two “Jesus” stories share in common obtains for reasons other than “what nouns of place and context and verbs that mark the various steps in the judicial and penal process . . . [and] what one would expect in cases where routine actions are being described” can adequately account for.

We come now to a new alternative that does have relevance for the question of the historicity of the gospel account of Jesus’ fate:

(3) Literary dependency. The unusual number of close parallels between the two “Jesus” stories could be explained as due to the fact that either Josephus had access to the Markan Gospel or Mark had access to Josephus’ _The Jewish Wars_, at least Book VI. If there were such literary dependency, who is likely to have been dependent upon whom? Since Josephus pays so little attention to Jesus of Nazareth and the Christian movement (only mentioned twice briefly in _Ant._, XVIII. 63-64 [with latter Christian emendations] and _Ant._, XX. 200), it is very doubtful that Josephus is dependent upon the Gospel of Mark for the inspiration to create his story of Jesus, son of Ananias. Besides, why would Josephus have invented such a story? If, as Josephus indicates, Jesus, son of Ananias, did harangue against Jerusalem, its people and the Temple for seven years and five months, from the Feast of Tabernacles in autumn of 62 CE to late winter of 70 CE (_J.W._, VI, 300), and particularly during the various festivals (_J.W._, VI, 307f.), it is most likely that someone who survived the destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple would have known whether or not such a person as Jesus, son of Ananias, actually existed, and thus would have been able to challenge Josephus’ veracity, if such a story were only Josephus’ invention.

If on the other hand, Mark is literarily dependent upon Josephus for the story, that dependency is certainly not slavish with respect to vocabulary and syntax. Moreover, Mark gives no hint of being otherwise familiar with Josephus’ works, for example Josephus’ take on John the Baptist (_Ant._, XVIII. 116-119). If Mark is dependent upon Josephus for thematic material from the story of Jesus, son of Ananias, Mark could not have been written before 79 CE, the generally accepted date of the composition of Josephus’ _Jewish Wars_ (see Louis Feldman, “Josephus,” in _ABD_, III, 983f.). I think it is very unlikely that there is literary dependency of either author upon the other. Thus, I am not persuaded that direct literary dependency is an explanation for the parallels between the two stories.

But then a highly reputable scholar comes down on the side of the argument Tim O’Neill is attempting to portray as “unscholarly”:

(4) Oral dependency. It is possible that these striking, I would say, stunning and provocative, parallels, could be due to the fact that both Mark and Josephus are dependent upon the oral circulation of the story of Jesus, son of Ananias, which became a part of the folklore of stories which were generated following the Roman siege of Jerusalem and the destruction of the Temple. If there was such a person as Jesus, son of Ananias, and if he did harangue against the Temple for almost seven and a half years, then such a story may well have become well enough known and have developed into a sufficiently stable oral form such that Josephus and Mark both had access to it. If that be the case, then it appears that the story of Jesus, son of Ananias, may well have served as a model for Mark to develop a good part of, or at least an outline for, significant elements of his passion narrative, as well as providing other motifs which Mark found helpful in fleshing out his story of Jesus of Nazareth. If Mark were dependent upon such a story, his Gospel could not have been written before the summer of 70 CE, when the final siege of Jerusalem and the Temple occurred under Titus, the siege which led to the death of Ananias’ son, Jesus.

Theodore J. Weeden, Sr. 3/4/03

But so far we have only seen two scholars drop in their two cents. Are there any others?

Weeden introduced his arguments on the Crosstalk2 list (a list for scholarly discussion of the historical Jesus and Christian origins) so I cite below other scholarly contributions to this discussion from that list. I do not know the names of all persons cited or even if they are or were professional scholars, but I do know that most of them are and that their contributions were all seriously addressed on the scholarly list.

Jeffrey B. Gibson, D.Phil. (Oxon.)

I recall Geza Vermes bringing up the parallel between the two Jesuses in a graduate seminar led by Ed Sanders.

6 Mar 2003

Mark Goodacre

The thesis of some kind of identification between the two figures was also played around with a bit on Xtalk once by Bill Arnal and Steve Davies . . . .

March 6, 2003

Also by Goodacre in the same discussion thread:

one of the closest parallels between Josephus on Jesus ben Ananus and the NT on Jesus comes in Matt. 23.37-39 // Luke 13.34-35. I argue in _The Case Against Q_ (pp. 23-5) that there are some interesting similarities here between Josephus and Matthew // Luke, e.g. in both oracles, one has the same thee-fold focus on the people, the city, the temple. Just as Jesus ben Ananus cries ‘a voice against Jerusalem . . .’, so too Jesus laments ‘Jerusalem, Jerusalem . . .’. Just as ben Ananus singles out ‘the holy house’, so too Jesus says ‘behold your house is forsaken’. Just as ben Ananus raises ‘a voice against this whole people’, so too Jesus exclaims ‘how often would I have gathered your children . . .” To me it gently suggests Matthew and Luke may post-date Mark, but it’s rarely used in dating discussions because it is normally assigned to Q, which is usually thought to pre-date Mark.

Bob Schacht:

The parallels and similarities are certainly interesting

Mar 4, 2003

Horace Jeffery Hodges (Ph.D., U.C. Berkeley)
Assistant Professor
Hanshin University (Korean Theological University)

Ted, interesting post. You may be onto something


But what about the possibility that it is Josephus who did the conflating?
After all, unless one discounts 100% as Christian insertions the references
to our Jesus in Josephus, the latter at least knew about the former, and
probably had access to additional information about him.

Mar 6 2003

David C. Hindley

E. P. Sanders, on the other hand, does treat the parallels between the charges brought against the Jesus of the Gospels and against Jesus son of Ananias (War 6.300-309) in _The Historical Figure of Jesus_ (Allen Lane/Penguin, 1993) page 267 . . . .

Sanders was certainly not the first to draw on these parallels. I found it treated in S. G. F. Brandon‘s flawed but interesting _Trial of Jesus of Nazareth_ (Dorset, 1968), page 89.

Mar 6, 2003

Richard Fellows

I agree that there are close parallels between the stories of Jesus of Nazareth and the story of Jesus, son of Ananias


I am suggesting that Jesus, son of Ananias, was influenced by Jesus of Nazareth.

Jan 31, 2005

Karel Hanhart

Doesn’t it make more sense to turn the argument around. In that case Mark’s gospel was doing the rounds in Rome, soon after 70 and Josephus in his Life mockingly referred to Mark’s crucifixion/resurrection narrative soon after the publication of Mark’s gospel.

Jan 31, 2005

Stephen C. Carlson

As for Jesus ben Ananias, I cannot help but wonder whether Josephus was colored by the case of Jesus of Nazareth in choosing which details to highlight and which ones to suppress

Feb 2, 2005

Conclusion. That the parallels are striking is a scholarly and credible observation and that some form of influence between them is a credible explanation.

The scholarly analysis and attempts to explain the parallels covered two periods on the discussion list, one in 2003 and again in 2005. I can present some of the ideas raised another time, but in brief the primary focus of discussion has been on how best to explain them. Does coincidence cover it? Is there a common narrative known to both Josephus and the evangelist? Did Josephus model ben Ananias on Jesus of Nazareth or the Gospel of Mark? Or did the evangelist model his Jesus on ben Ananias? Were both Jesus stories independently being modeled on a common “rejected wisdom” or other literary theme of the day? What are the implications for historicity and how ancient historians worked?

One or two individuals did try to question the validity of the parallels but their protests were presented without having read the initial arguments addressing the same criticisms they raised and they accordingly had no impact on the wider discussion.

There is much else and I would in particular like to address the fallacy of the Lincoln-Kennedy assassination parallels that O’Neill also introduces. But this post is already too lengthy. Another time.

At least I hope with this post that someone can see that the two Jesuses parallels are indeed noteworthy and credible and worthy of serious scholarly discussion.

Carrier, Richard. 2014. On the Historicity of Jesus: Why We Might Have Reason for Doubt. Sheffield: Sheffield Phoenix Press.

Evans, Craig A. 1994. “Jesus in Non-Christian Sources.” In Studying the Historical Jesus: Evaluations of the State of Current Research, edited by Bruce D. Chilton and Craig A. Evans, 443–78. Leiden: E.J. Brill.

O’Neill, Tim. 2019. “Jesus Mythicism 4: Jesus as an Amalgam of Many Figures.” History for Atheists (blog). February 25, 2019. https://historyforatheists.com/2019/02/amalgam-jesus/.

RA. 2015. “Jesus Never Existed.” RA (blog). November 3, 2015. https://www.patheos.com/blogs/reasonadvocates/2015/11/03/jesus-never-existed/.

Weeden, Theodore J., Sr. 2003. “Two Jesuses: The Provocative Parallels.” XTalk: Historical Jesus & Christian Origins – Yahoo Groups. https://groups.yahoo.com/neo/groups/crosstalk2/conversations/topics/12940.


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Still Better Informed History for Atheists — More ... In my recent response to Tim O'Neill's attempt to dismiss the significance of the parallels between Jesus son of Ananias in Josephus's Jewish War and ...
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Neil Godfrey

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  • A Buddhist
    2019-03-22 17:33:11 GMT+0000 - 17:33 | Permalink

    When I was a Christian, I thought that Jesus ben Ananas was another attempt by YHVH to offer Jesus as salvation to people. Strange idea – but people, even Christians, have created even stranger ideas.

  • db
    2019-03-22 17:57:19 GMT+0000 - 17:57 | Permalink

    • It is possible that other parts of GMark have a dependence on Josephus’s Antiquities.

    Comment by Gregory Doudna—20 January 2019, Vridar:

    I know it is not common to see Antiquities as a source used in the composition of GMark, but Brad McAdon outlines an argument for this in Alpha 1 (2017): 92-93 (“Josephus and Mark”). McAdon’s summary: “The number of specific details within these similarities [between themes of Antiquities’s Antipas/JohnB and GMark] are striking, and suggest dependence. Moreover, the fact that Josephus’s Antiquities 18 is the only extant source that includes narrative material on the Herodian family, a Philip, Herod Antipas, Herod Antipas and Herodias’s relationship, John’s criticism of this relationship, John’s baptism, arrest, imprisonment, and death strongly suggest dependence one way or the other. If, for example, Mark did not know and use Antiquities 18, this would mean that he must have had access to and used some other source material for these narrative components of John’s baptism and death including specific details about the Herodian family–including ambiguity about a Philip–and John’s baptism, arrest, and death that is extremely similar in content to, if not identical to, Antiquities 18. So far, we know of no such source.”

    Cf. Brad McAdon (2017), “Josephus and Mark” Alpha : studies in early Christianity. Volume 1: 92-93. ISBN 978-1-936166-41-1.

    • db
      2019-04-01 21:21:47 GMT+0000 - 21:21 | Permalink

      Godfrey, Neil (13 October 2018). “Jesus, from a corpse hung on a tree to a man slain on a cross”. Vridar.

      [Per Stéphane, Gospel of Mark] was probably written around the turn of the century, between 95 and 100 CE;

      Cf. Stéphane, Marc (1959). La Passion de Jésus: fait d’histoire ou objet de croyance (in French). Paris: Dervy

    • Steven C Watson
      2019-05-09 10:38:45 GMT+0000 - 10:38 | Permalink

      But we know of one historian who survives in fragments, Justus of Tiberias, who also wrote a history of the war and a history of the Jewish people. Given the vast majority of the writings of the time are lost, any argument for G.Mk depending on Josephos will have to be a lot tighter to raise it to a level of probability were you could usefully rely on it.

  • Booker
    2019-03-22 18:18:12 GMT+0000 - 18:18 | Permalink

    For someone (O’Neil) who regularly resorts to Occam’s Razor in his defense of historicity, it’s at least curious, if not very telling of his bias, that he fails to apply it to this situation regarding literary dependence between the two documents.

  • Robert Jase
    2019-03-22 19:40:54 GMT+0000 - 19:40 | Permalink

    Like everything else Christian the story of BibleJesus was stolen.

  • Attila Csanyi
    2019-03-22 20:20:08 GMT+0000 - 20:20 | Permalink

    As there appears to have never existed a real Nazareth nor a “Jesus of Nazareth”, it does appear that the details in Mark could have been adapted from the Jesus ben Ananas story of Josephus.
    I see Mark (ur-Mark?) and the other gospels as efforts to give historicity to the Christos of Paul, to deliberately conflate two messianic movements, one Jewish-based and one Gentile-based, and finally to merge them together in Acts.

    • balivi
      2019-03-23 07:37:30 GMT+0000 - 07:37 | Permalink

      Accurate, exact and precise wording. I agree.

      • Attila Csanyi
        2019-03-28 02:29:42 GMT+0000 - 02:29 | Permalink

        Thank you.
        I would also like to bring in the passage in LUKE (Ch. 23), where Jesus is said to be a Galilean rebel leader who “opposes the payment of taxes to Caesar and maintains that he is the Messiah, a king.” And one who is “inciting the people with his teaching throughout all Judea, from Galilee where he began even to here.”

        This may have been in the proto-MARK and copied by the author but lost from the final version pf MARK, but the author of LUKE also shows other evidence of adapting details from Josephus.

        I hope I get some comments on this.

        • Attila Csanyi
          2019-03-28 02:31:54 GMT+0000 - 02:31 | Permalink

          I did not finish what I meant to say is that of course that was another Jesus, who happened to be a Galilean.

        • Neil Godfrey
          2019-03-28 07:45:25 GMT+0000 - 07:45 | Permalink

          This is a discussion that I normally watch from the outside so I’m not sure any response from me will be seen as contributing very much.

          Another way of interpreting the charges in Luke 23 that the author was presenting a Jesus who, according to the scriptures and standard motifs of the suffering righteous man, was accused falsely. Is there evidence that would lead us to prefer an oral tradition (presumably back to some real charge against one really forbidding payment of taxes to Caesar) over a theological/literary source for the Luke 23 passage?

    • Steven C Watson
      2019-05-09 11:16:22 GMT+0000 - 11:16 | Permalink

      Interesting. Burton Mack proposed a bifurcation that led to a ‘Christ Cult’ and a ‘Jesus People’, both stemming from a historical Jesus who was a Cynic-like teacher. I could never understand how they were supposed to have become so completly insulated from one another that neither showed evidence of the other until they came back together in the multiple redaction layers of the purported ‘Q’. Two groups originally quite separate who eventually converged is more plausible certainly but still at the level of speculation. The only candidate for ‘Jesus’ as opposed to ‘Christ’ would seem to be the Jesus recorded by Epiphanius who some still Torah-observant Mesopotamian Christians and the Bavli believed was stoned in Lydda in the time of Alexander Janneus c.80BC. Paul, absent the necessity of his ‘Christ’ being historical, also dates himself to the same era curiously.

  • 2019-03-22 21:06:09 GMT+0000 - 21:06 | Permalink

    I think the rejection of Markan dependence on Josephus is a bit too hasty, because there are other indicators, as db pointed out, that show Mark may have read Josephus. Furthermore, this is explained by my thesis, that the Gospel of Mark is a commentary on the war. This tells us why Mark would have been using Josephus to begin with. If Mark set out to write a commentary on the war, then it makes sense that he would have wanted to read some background on the war, which is provided by Josephus.

    But ALSO, what about the parallels between Mark’s trial and Philo?

    “(36) There was a certain madman named Carabbas … this man spent all his days and nights naked in the roads, minding neither cold nor heat, the sport of idle children and wanton youths;
    (37) and they, driving the poor wretch as far as the public gymnasium, and setting him up there on high that he might be seen by everybody, flattened out a leaf of papyrus and put it on his head instead of a diadem, and clothed the rest of his body with a common door mat instead of a cloak and instead of a scepter they put in his hand a small stick of the native papyrus which they found lying by the way side and gave to him;

    (38) and when, like actors in theatrical spectacles, he had received all the insignia of royal authority, and had been dressed and adorned like a king, the young men bearing sticks on their shoulders stood on each side of him instead of spear-bearers, in imitation of the bodyguards of the king, and then others came up, some as if to salute him, and others making as though they wished to plead their causes before him, and others pretending to wish to consult with him about the affairs of the state.

    (39) Then from the multitude of those who were standing around there arose a wonderful shout of men calling out Maris!; and this is the name by which it is said that they call the kings among the Syrians; for they knew that Agrippa [King Herod of the Jews] was by birth a Syrian, and also that he was possessed of a great district of Syria of which he was the sovereign;”
    – Flaccus IV; Philo

    “Mark 15:
    15 Wanting to satisfy the crowd, Pilate released Barabbas to them. He had Jesus flogged, and handed him over to be crucified.

    16 The soldiers led Jesus away into the palace (that is, the Praetorium) and called together the whole company of soldiers. 17 They put a purple robe on him, then twisted together a crown of thorns and set it on him. 18 And they began to call out to him, “Hail, king of the Jews!” 19 Again and again they struck him on the head with a staff and spit on him. Falling on their knees, they paid homage to him. 20 And when they had mocked him, they took off the purple robe and put his own clothes on him. Then they led him out to crucify him.”

    • db
      2019-03-22 21:33:59 GMT+0000 - 21:33 | Permalink

      “Flaccus by Philo, translated by Charles Duke Yonge”. Wikisource.

      • Jenkins, Philip (30 June 2013). “THE MOCKING OF CARABBAS”. Anxious Bench.

      Very tentatively, I wonder if some such ritual might have provided a format for both the “mocking” events I describe, in which a Jewish pseudo-king was held up to ridicule.

      If that seems dubious, I really would be grateful for some other explanation of the truly odd parallels we see here.

      • Godfrey, Neil (1 February 2016). “The Madness of King Jesus”. Vridar.

      • 2019-03-22 21:56:54 GMT+0000 - 21:56 | Permalink

        Well, where I’m leaning is that the author of Mark was a professional writer of prophetic stories, and as such was a well read person with his own library to draw upon. This is why we see so many different parallels in mark from so many sources. Mark is a story filled with many tropes, and contains many complexities. It’s clearly the work of a highly experienced writer and I suspect that this is why we see so many potential parallels, because he really was drawing from many sources.

        • db
          2019-03-22 22:25:08 GMT+0000 - 22:25 | Permalink

          • Any relation to “the author of Mark was a professional writer of prophetic stories” and “geographical and cultural errors” ?

          McGrew, Timothy (2012) Alleged Historical Errors in the Gospels

          The case against Mark: geographical and cultural errors

          1. Mark is mistaken about the geography around the sea of Galilee (Mark 5:1–13)

          2. Mark is mistaken about the geography of the coast of Palestine (Mark 7:31)

          3. Mark is confused about the relation between Judea and the Jordan river (Mark 10:1)

          4. Mark gets the locations of Bethphage and Bethany wrong (Mark 11:1)

          5. Mark is mistaken about the Jewish custom of handwashing (Mark 7:2–3)

          6. Mark is mistaken about the Jewish law of divorce (Mark 10:12)

          7. Mark’s description of Jesus’ trial before the Sanhedrin is in contradiction to Jewish law (Mark 14:53–65)

          • 2019-03-23 12:32:29 GMT+0000 - 12:32 | Permalink

            Funny, that person in engaging in apologetics, but they still have some valid points, though most of their individual arguments are wrong. Many of these so-called flaws in Mark are, I think, intentional. These are features of symbolism, not outright errors.

            • db
              2019-03-23 15:26:41 GMT+0000 - 15:26 | Permalink

              These are features of symbolism

              My understanding is that some of the geographical context of Gospel According to Mark is dependent on the Septuagint′s (LXX) geographical context per some prophet′s travel itinerary and the location of Hellenistic areas like Perea and “Galilee of the [pagan] nations”.

            • Matt Cavanaugh
              2019-03-23 16:24:42 GMT+0000 - 16:24 | Permalink

              Right. If GMark is allegory, with Jesus’ progress through Galilee down to Judea and back a descent through the heavens to Earth and back, then the geographic ‘mistakes’ aren’t mistakes at all.

              • nightshadetwine
                2019-03-23 19:21:54 GMT+0000 - 19:21 | Permalink

                Do you have any more information about this allegorical descent and ascent? Anyone gone into this in more detail? This is what I think the Gospels are about.

              • Matt Cavanaugh
                2019-03-25 20:57:34 GMT+0000 - 20:57 | Permalink

                nightshadewine: For the descent & ascent, see Earl Doherty’s Jesus: Neither God Nor Man. Regarding the possible allegorical meaning of Jesus’ many crossings of the ‘Sea’ of Galilee and the Baptist’s use of the Jordan, see René Salm’s assorted essays on water & gnosis at mythicistpapers.com.

    • Greg G.
      2019-03-27 00:57:40 GMT+0000 - 00:57 | Permalink

      There are many different lines of sources Mark is using in that section.

      Mark usually explained his use of Aramaic but never Latin. He explained the name “Bartimaeus””. He had Jesus open the Gethsemane prayer with “Abba, Father”, so when Barabbas is introduced, his readers know that there are two people called “Son of the Father”. This brings up Leviticus 16:5-22, the scape goat scenario, where one goat is killed for the sins of the people and the other is released into the wilderness. Of course that ritual occurs at Yom Kippur, Atonement Day, not at Passover. Then immediately after the Barabbas scene, we have the Carabbas scene and even in Greek, the only difference between the names is the first letter.

      From the article:

      Moreover, Mark gives no hint of being otherwise familiar with Josephus’ works

      I disagree with that.

      In Mark 3:7-8, Jesus departs with his disciples to the sea, just as Archelaeus does with his mother and friends in Jewish War 2.2.1, even using the same word for “sea”. A great multitude from Galilee follows Jesus just as an immense multitude ran together, out of Galilee in Jewish War 2.3.1, People came from Idumea and beyond the Jordan in Mark and JW, with a remark about the large numbers from judea in each.

      Mark 6:3 names four of Jesus’ brothers and all four of those names are found in a thirteen word span in Jewish War 6.2.6, “but on the Jewish side, and of those that were with Simon, Judas the son of Merto, and Simon the son of Josas; of the Idumeans, James and Simon, the latter of whom was the son of Cathlas, and James was the son of Sosas;”

      Mark 6:8-10 is Jesus sending the disciples out on a journey and giving them instructions. The instructions are very much like Josephus’ description of the Essenes in Jewish Wars 2.8.4.

      There is a similarity of names between them and the names in Mark are usually the name of the father used as an identifier of a participant in the story. Josephus describes the Sicarii in Jewish Wars 2.17.6 and describe Judas the Galilean in Jewish Wars 2.17.8 as a “a very cunning sophister”. If the first two letters of Sicarii are swapped, you have the makings of “Iscariot”.

      Nazareth appears to be interpolated in Mark 1:9 as the parallel in Matthew is verbatim except for that. Elsewhere, Mark uses “the Nazarene”. The three “Beth-” cities are not mentioned in Jewish War. Dalmanutha is strange. I wondered if it was a portmanteau created by not following a line break. They didn’t uses spaces between words and they often broke a word off in the middle and carried on at the next line. I did a search for the “n utha” as “νουθά” with the spaces removed from the text and found that it occurred four or five times in Jewish War and one of them was in Jewish Wars 2.16.4, the same section that Dalmatia is discussed. That section is huge however/

      But every other city in Mark is mentioned in Jewish War, including Cyrene, Mount of Olives, the Decapolis, plus Tyre and Sidon are mentioned together.

      • Neil Godfrey
        2019-03-27 23:30:40 GMT+0000 - 23:30 | Permalink

        I do not rule out the possiblity that the author of the Gospel of Mark knew Josephus’s The Jewish War. At the same time I have difficulties with the parallels you set out here. Take just the first one, and I include an editors introduction for context:

        Book 2. Chapter 2.

        Archelaus goes to Rome with a great number of his kindred. He is there accused before Cæsar by Antipater; but is superior to his accusers in judgment, by the means of that defence which Nicolaus made for him.

        1. Archelaus went down now to the sea side, with his mother and his friends, Poplas, and Ptolemy, and Nicolaus, and left behind him Philip, to be his steward in the palace, and to take care of his domestic affairs. Salome went also along with him with her sons, as did also the king’s brethren and sons-in-law. These, in appearance, went to give him all the assistance they were able, in order to secure his succession, but in reality to accuse him for his breach of the laws, by what he had done at the temple.

        I fail to see any point to a purported conscious parallel in Mark 3:7-8. Mimesis or literary imitation was meant to have a purpose that related to both texts, such that the new text could find some meaningful relationship with the original text. I don’t see that here. It is simply a mechanical parallel without any obvious significance or meaning or point.

        Further, by what criteria are the parallels justified? If density of parallels is meant to be one criterion then we surely lack it in the case of Jewish War against the Gospel. One has to search for various needles in a larger haystack for such parallels, suggesting that they are more coincidental and the result of common language and narrative tropes than conscious imitation or emulation of any kind.

        Again, I don’t discount Josephan influence in Mark, but I think we need stronger arguments to justify — and explain — some of the parallels proposed here.

        See the extract I have added in response to Richard Carrier’s comment. I think the same points apply to some of the JW and GMark parallels listed.

      • Martin Klatt
        2019-05-09 11:45:52 GMT+0000 - 11:45 | Permalink

        “Dalmanutha is strange. I wondered if it was a portmanteau created by not following a line break. They didn’t uses spaces between words and they often broke a word off in the middle and carried on at the next line.”

        Hmm, if you look at the early manuscripts there are a considerable number that have Magdala(n) instead but it is usually rejected on the basis that Matthew has that, so deemed a harmonization to M.
        We know Matthew at some point in time used Mark to write the same story, so it is not unlikely that his early copy was not yet damaged and Magdala(n) is correct. The story would make more sense if there was no boat trip at all in this instance but Jesus went for his share of the breadcrumb(μαγδαλιά) aboard the vessel, so taking a lunch break. Then some Pharisees create a diversion by asking for a sign. After that the company finally takes off for the boat trip and the disciples, who were distracted by the interlude, forget to take their shares of bread aboard with them and the story continues as known.

    • Attila Csanyi
      2019-03-28 02:38:37 GMT+0000 - 02:38 | Permalink

      Another good parallel. The gospel writers had a hard time creating their flesh-and-blood Jesus, so they borrowed anything they could, the readers never knew where those details came from. I also like the use of the other Jesus, the Galilean, adapted in the accusations against Jesus in Luke 23.

  • Charles McGuyer
    2019-03-22 22:47:47 GMT+0000 - 22:47 | Permalink

    “Woe, woe to the city again, and to the people, and to the holy house!” And just as he added at the last, “Woe, woe to myself also!”

    This line seems a little convenient to me. As it is an omen to his death. Then “Boom” he’s dead. Josephus gives it a little Hollywood editing to get things interesting. As I was reading I thought maybe this a caricature on Mark’s gospel. Very interesting, though. Enjoyed the article. Don’t think it’s the whole truth, though.

  • Matt Cavanaugh
    2019-03-22 23:58:47 GMT+0000 - 23:58 | Permalink

    Aron Ra is a bit of a blowhard who regularly pontificates on subjects on which he is poorly informed. I have lots of problems with Tim O’Neill, but his critique of Ra’s half-baked mythicism is on target and (mostly) justified.

  • Matt Cavanaugh
    2019-03-23 00:23:14 GMT+0000 - 00:23 | Permalink

    The ‘Jesus Amalgam’ theory seems quite popular among atheists, agnostics, and deists. True, the inchoate version which O’Neill pillories is accepted & repeated without any real thought as to how it could have come about. O’Neill is asking too much of everyday folks to provide a plausible theory, but neither have I seen one coming from ‘scholars’.

    If I understand it correctly, according to the Jesus Amalgam theory proposed by Aron Ra et al., traditions of several 1st century figures somehow fused into one over the course of but a few decades. That seems nigh impossible.

    On the other hand, that several historical figures either consciously or coincidentally emulated the characteristics, actions, and fate of Jesus of Nazareth just a few years earlier, seems also nigh impossible.

    The simplest explanation is that the author of GMark, desiring to provide a fictional Jesus with a backstory, simply cribbed from the works of Josephus.

  • Christine
    2019-03-23 00:27:01 GMT+0000 - 00:27 | Permalink

    Just a comment on what “A Buddhist” wrote about the God of the Old Testament … YHVH, the tetragrammaton, wasn’t a god. It was a divination symbol used by the diviners (called prophets) of the Old Testament.

    We’ve read many posts on the similarities of histories that were used to make the Jesus persona. I don’t think anybody can go much farther. Now it has become more repetition. Very good insight. But, there needs to be a stepping off point to find out who the mystery man (Jesus) really was.

    The Jesus of the New Testament was actually John. The difference between John and Jesus was that John taught about the light he used in healing and divination. Jesus, the Roman’s god-man who never existed, taught more about God than light. He said he was the light of the world, and that one-liner is perhaps all that remains of John’s light world teachings. Jesus was the mouthpiece of the Romans to teach God worship. Roman clerics (early church fathers, 1 Clement, Irenaeus, Eusebius and other bishops rewrote and changed the history of the guy who started it all, John the Baptist, then destroyed any memory of him. There would have been mention of him in the Alexandrian Library. Theophilus the Alexandrian patron under Rome burned the Library down to destroy any writings of John, and rewrote him as the God’s mouthpiece for heralding the son of God, Jesus. All this Roman misrepresentation is a big lie.

    Have you heard of Mandelbrot’s fractal theory, which is a mathematical repeating formula for the creation and recreation of the universe? This was known 2,000 years ago. John taught it before Mandelbrot rediscovered it. You can look up the “vine” teaching (possibly by John’s own hand), today called the Mandaean Tree of Life. The Mandaeans are descendants of John the Baptist. The schematic called Mandaean Tree of Life shouldn’t be confused with artwork, although historians call it Mandaean art. It can be found on the internet. It is a schematic, the same as Mandelbrot’s fractals…light. The closest I come to describing what John was…he was a light physicist, healer, diviner, prophesier of the future and much more. He is known to the Mandaeans as the primordial light, who took the form of John the Baptist, along with Abel (who Cain slayed) and Seth. These three were teachers of light, healing and divination in their lifetimes.

    So, if scholars can begin now to drop the similarities of prior historical figures that were borrowed to make up the Jesus story, and start to read some of the Mandaean literature, the real teacher, John, whose name was changed to Jesus, will stand out. Knowing that you all have spent many years as historians and scholars, you can accept that the Mandaeans, last living Gnostics, have had their words changed. Their teachings have been encroached upon by the Roman Catholic God-worshipping religion. They now speak of God. I cringe when I hear that. John taught about light, not God. The Mandaean holy books can still be understood, and are more accurate than anything you’ll read in the New Testament. They claim to be the original Nazarites (Nazarenes). Their most famous recent prophet is John the Baptist. They would know more about him than the Romans who wrote the New Testament.

    • Matt Cavanaugh
      2019-03-23 00:35:48 GMT+0000 - 00:35 | Permalink

      Okay, we’ve gone from Aron Ra’s telephone game version of Carrier’s strained Jesus ben Damneus hypothesis, to Christine’s hash of Georges Ory.

      • Christine
        2019-03-25 21:23:30 GMT+0000 - 21:23 | Permalink

        Hash. At least I’m on your list (grin). You couldn’t understand anything I said. But thanks for your comment anyway.

  • Matt Cavanaugh
    2019-03-23 02:28:06 GMT+0000 - 02:28 | Permalink

    O’Neill … ends up arguing from two contradictory positions: on the one hand trying to demonstrate that the parallels are “too flimsy” to be valid and on the other hand trying to present alternative explanations for parallels that are plainly evident and obvious.

    Good catch.

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  • db
    2019-03-29 00:36:26 GMT+0000 - 00:36 | Permalink

    Weeden Sr., Theodore (1 October 2008). “Polemics as a Case for Dissent: A Response to Richard Bauckham’s Jesus and the Eyewitnesses”. Journal for the Study of the Historical Jesus. 6 (2): 211–224. doi:10.1163/174551908X349699.

    I argue that Mark created the passion narrative in large part from Davidic-saga and Josephan hypotexts.

    Weeden, Theodore. “Two Jesuses, Jesus of Jerusalem and Jesus of Nazareth: Provocative Parallels and Imaginative Imitation.” Forum 6 (2003): 137–341. “Presented at the 2003 fall meeting of the Jesus Seminar (see Westar Institute: Fall 2003 Seminar Papers, 1-122). Pages 42-43, deal with the issue of dependency under the following heading: ‘IX. The Intertextuality of Two Passion Narratives: Questions of Vector and Medium’.”
    | Title The Two Jesuses
    | Volume 2; Volume 6 of Forum: New series, ISSN 0883-4970
    | Author Theodore J. Weeden
    | Publisher Polebridge Press, 2003
    | Length 212 pages

    “Weeden on motifs common to Jesus ben Ananias & gMark & gJohn” —Post by MrMacSon » May 09, 2016. earlywritings.com
    [I]n this Feb 2005 dissertation, Weeden says

    While in my presentation before the Jesus Seminar I did not think that Mark was dependent directly on Josephus. I now think that he was. And since Book VI of the Wars was published about 79 CE, I now do not think that the Gospel of Mark is any earlier than the early 80’s CE.
    John’s apparent independent use of the Josephus story of Jesus-Ananias, a use inspired by John’s awareness that Mark had used the same story for his trial scenes before him, convinces me that Mark and John were dependent upon Josephus for the story of Jesus son of Ananias — and I could show the same for Luke— rather than Josephus being dependent upon Mark or John (or Luke for that matter) for material to create his story of Jesus-Ananias.

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