Another Pointer Towards a Late Date for the Gospel of Mark?

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by Neil Godfrey

Back in August this year, I introduced a hypothesis that what we read in Josephus’s Antiquities about John “the Baptist” is actually a misplaced episode about the John Hyrcanus II. (See the relevant section linked here in the discussion of the festschrift for Thomas L. Thompson, Biblical Narratives, Archaeology and Historicity: Essays In Honour of Thomas L. Thompson.) I won’t go into the details of Doudna’s argument yet so check the summary to get the context for this post.

The point here is that if Doudna’s idea is correct then the gospel authors drew their template for John the Baptist from the writings of Josephus in the early 90s. There would be no reason to justify any other source; there was no oral tradition or historical person or event to draw upon — nothing but a literary confusion stands alone as the source.

Now why would the first evangelist to write a gospel (we’ll call him Mark) introduce a story about Jesus with an Elijah-like figure baptizing “all of Judea and Jerusalem” in the Jordan river?

By the way, I stress that Mark does not say “some” of the people of Judea and Jerusalem but he speaks of the whole population being baptized and Matthew follows him here. It is easy to dismiss this phrase as an exaggeration but why would our evangelists exaggerate to such an astonishing extent? Why would they begin the ministry of Jesus with a claim that Judea itself was baptized by John? If we try to imagine the evangelists putting a hyperbolic spin on “historical memories” then we have to wonder why they could not see that they somewhat overdid it and thereby undermined their credibility. Or — there is another explanation…. One of the oldest critics to spell out this alternative was David Friedrich Strauss in the nineteenth century. He wrote:

The baptism of John could scarcely have been derived from the baptism of proselytes, for this rite was unquestionably posterior to the rise of Christianity. It was more analagous to the religious lustrations in practice amongst the Jews, especially the Essenes, and was apparently founded chiefly on certain expressions used by several of the prophets in a figurative sense, but afterwards understood literally.

* By “source”, I mean to exclude the notion that the evangelists used the Jewish Scriptures merely to add a bit of scriptural colouring to what were ultimately historical memories or traditions about Jesus. I mean the narrative described allusively to the Scriptures was itself inspired by the Scriptures. Unlike other historical accounts where historical figures are given mythical overlays, there is nothing left of the figure of Jesus once we remove those scriptural overlays. Alexander the Great and Hadrian may have been compared with Dionysus and Heracles, and Socrates may even have emulated Achilles in one sense, but remove those mythical images and we still have lots of the flesh of the historical persons visible to us. That’s not the case when we remove the myth from Jesus.

Ah yes, we return once more to the Jewish Scriptures being the source* of the gospels. So what are those “certain expressions used by several of the prophets”?

According to these expressions, God requires from the Israelitish people, as a condition of their restoration to his favour, a washing and purification from their iniquity, and he promises that he will himself cleanse them with water (Isaiah i. 16, Ez. xxxvi. 25, comp. Jer. ii. 22).

For those too rushed or lazy to click on the references here they are on a platter:

Wash and make yourselves clean. Take your evil deeds out of my sight; stop doing wrong.

I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you will be clean; I will cleanse you from all your impurities and from all your idols.


Add to this the Jewish notion that the Messiah would not appear with his kingdom until the Israelites repented,9 and we have the combination necessary for the belief that an ablution, symbolical of conversion and forgiveness of sins, must precede the advent of the Messiah.

9 Sanhedr. f. xcvii. 2 : R. Elieser dixit : si Israélite pænitentiam agunt, tunc per Croeiem liberantur ; sin vero, non liberantur. Schöttgen, horæ, 2, p. 780 ff.

(Strauss, Life of Jesus, Pt 2, ch2, §45)

So we can imagine our first evangelist thinking:

I need to begin by having Israel repent so the Messiah can come — as we understand from our holy books. The Jordan River seems like a logical place to start. That’s where Joshua renewed the covenant with Israel. But how to get them all assembled there? And we need Elijah to be the herald of the Messiah at the same time, as per Malachi. . . . Hey, what was that in Josephus about John the Immerser? … Ah yes, perfect… I’ll use him. He gets arrested and sent to prison, and that’s something I can work with, too. And being a ritual baptizer, how convenient that that fits right in with the conversion of the nation being a washing or sprinkling in the prophets. Right…. here we go, clothing our John with Elijah’s garb and having him represent the “OT”…

And so we have it: all the Jews repent by going out to a John who is redescribed as Elijah and are baptized in the Jordan.

Once that “little detail” is out of the way, the journey of Jesus begins. Of course, the repentance of his people preceding his coming is soon forgotten as demons come in and Jesus has to contend with unbelievers, enemies, and so forth. But many do accept him even if they don’t fully understand what he’s all about till after the resurrection.

Is it likely, though, that Josephus could have been so “sloppy” as to misplace a story about John Hyrcanus so that later readers interpreted his John through their knowledge of the gospels? Recall certain observations I noted in Once more on Josephus, and questions arising . . . .

It is an uncomfortable fact for the more ambitious varieties of source criticism that Josephus has the authorial habit of repeating and contradicting himself, and of varying his terminology. These oddities call for analysis, but they may result from a variety of causes (e.g., sloppiness, rhetorical artifice, multiple editions, copyist’s interventions, and yes, sources);. . . (112).


Many scholars . . . argue that Josephus uses one or more assistants (συνεργοί), or if not assistants then sources, for this section of the Antiquitates.

One can imagine arguments breaking out from time to time in the editorial room.

The Date of Mark?

I do not know if Greg Doudna’s case is true. But it is a possibility that does need to be considered in any discussion of the date of the gospels. If the evangelists had a strong theological reason to introduce a narrative of Jesus with a general repentance and washing away of sins, and with an Elijah figure and one “crying out in the wilderness”, then one can imagine seizing upon the John figure Josephus to be the bare bones that could be fleshed and dressed to make the part.

IF that is so, then we are reminded of other passages in Josephus that seem to be echoed in the Gospel of Mark.

The one most elaborately discussed is the Jesus ben Ananias who was brought before the authorities and dismissed as mad before being killed by the Romans. See Tale of Two Jesus’s (notes from Theodore Weeden)

We also have Josephus (who is ben Matityahu) seeing three of his former acquaintances crucified, but still alive. He begged the Roman general to have them taken down. Two subsequently died but the third survived. The gospels speak of another “Josephus” (of Arimathea) having Jesus’ body, crucified with two others, taken down from the cross.

Then there is Josephus’s list of signs signalling the end of Jerusalem with an emphasis on deception by false prophets. For an earlier discussion see The signs of the end in Josephus and Mark

There are other suggestive links, too. Some involve considerable discussion to justify, some are open to a too free-wheeling association and lose their suggestiveness the more closely they are examined.

The point: if Mark did know of both Jewish War and Antiquities, then he could not have written the gospel before the mid-90s. (Compare Earl Doherty’s dating of Mark in the 90s.)

Some perspectives (e.g. those of Roger Parvus) would lead us to conclude that the John the Baptist scenes were later additions to an earlier gospel. That’s possible, I suppose, but if so, then the redactors have done a very good job of integrating John the Baptist well into various theological threads of the longer narrative.

Then there is Hermann Detering’s view that the “Little Apocalypse” of Mark 13 was composed with the Second Jewish War of the 130s in memory and was a later addition to the gospel. Again, perhaps. But that chapter seems to me to be so very well integrated textually and thematically into the Passion scene that I have to wonder.

It’s uncomfortable dating the Gospel of Mark so late. One feels a bit lost and lonely. But it is a possibility that I cannot ignore, either.

Strauss, David Friedrich. The Life of Jesus Critically Examined. 2nd ed. London: Swan Sonnenschein, 1892.

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131 thoughts on “Another Pointer Towards a Late Date for the Gospel of Mark?”

  1. No doubt the author of Acts was inspired by the Gospel stories of John the Baptist. Can connections can be made to the lateness of these stories with Act’s allusion to Apollos’ inadequate understanding of the Gospel?

    Now there came to Ephesus a Jew named Apollos, a native of Alexandria. He was an eloquent man, well-versed in the scriptures. He had been instructed in the Way of the Lord; and he spoke with burning enthusiasm and taught accurately the things concerning Jesus, though he knew only the baptism of John. He began to speak boldly in the synagogue; but when Priscilla and Aquila heard him, they took him aside and explained the Way of God to him more accurately.

  2. If you are wondering what happened to your comment (I have deleted two three of them from here) I probably deleted it because it bore only the most indirect and distant relation to the question addressed in the post.

  3. It seems that the Roman custom of dividing the garments of the crucified victims was officialized only by Hadrian the first time.

    Marc n’ignore pas, toutefois, que, selon un usage qu’Hadrien devait règlementer, les soldats qui procédaient aux exécutions se partageaient les vêtements des suppliciés (Digeste XLVII.XX).
    (Pierre Emmanuel GUILLET, Réflexions sur les Origines du Christianisme, p.136)

    A curiosity: does a late date of Mark implies also a changement of your view that Mark is built only on previous Jewish Scriptures and not also on rival sectarian propaganda now lost (since said propaganda had to exist in the period 135 CE) ?

    1. If Hadrian “made official” a longstanding custom (quoting a secondary source is insufficient to satisfy me; I always need to see the primary source cited, even — or especially! — if cited by a scholar) then we have no reason to assume the gospel detail about dividing the clothes of Jesus was inspired by events in Hadrian’s time. Psalm 22:18 points to a custom that preceded even the Romans.

      I must be clear: I do not “believe” in a late date for Mark. The post above presents a hypothesis that deserves consideration. It is not presented as a fact. I do not know if Mark was written in or around 70 CE or 90s CE or 135 CE. I simply do not know. I can see arguments for all of those periods. I cannot just choose one that I “like” or that “fits other theories that I like”.

      You use the word “only” with reference to my view. No. I don’t believe I have ever said that Jewish Scriptures were the “only” source or inspiration for the gospels. If I have said that I was careless and need to qualify that statement. There was, after all, the little event of Roman destruction of the Jerusalem temple and the end of the Temple cult that had something to do with the gospels. We have also seen other literary influences on the gospels.

      As for your question, you keep trying to get me to comment on ideas I know nothing about or whose premise I cannot accept.

      1. An example of a Gospel episode interpreted as reaction against a rival propaganda: the Cyrenaic episode, against Basilides’s sostitutionism.

        Hence, I was asking if a late date for Mark may make it more strong the case of some Gospel episodes being a reaction against rival sects (beyond the usual James and Peter and John the “so-called” Pillars).

        1. I tend to not get into tenuous speculations. I used to explore such things until I learned we simply don’t have enough evidence to establish historical knowledge.

        2. There was a time when I wondered if some sort of “ur-Mark” might have been a Baslidean gospel. But how can we know? How do we avoid confirmation bias in arguing for such things? Surely it is safer, if less exciting, to tailor our questions to the limits of what the sources will allow us to investigate. There is much to explore on the basis of the evidence that exists. Once that is established then we might see ways forward on some of the other things.

    2. Another item that links the canonical Mark to Hadrian is Simon of Cyrene, whose son Rufus is also the name of the son of Simon bar Kokhba. The Gospel of Basilides has Jesus switch places with Simon of Cyrene and then laugh at him as Simon is crucified in his place. Although this appears to make Jesus into a heartless monster, it makes sense given the context that Simon Bar Kokhba identified himself as the Messiah before he was defeated in battle. The Cyrene moniker appears to be reference to the Kitos war starting in Cyrene that led up to the Bar Kokhba revolt.

      However, there must have been a Proto-Mark, seeing how there are updates to Mark that do not appear in Luke. Delbert Burkett’s “From Proto-Mark to Mark” sees there being up to six different versions of Mark prior to the canonical version. Jesus telling people that the apocalypse would be coming while some people are still there in Mark 9:1 seems to me to hard date at least one earlier version of Mark to the 70s, which also best fits the themes of the Temple curtain ripping at Jesus’ death.

      1. Absolutely correct.

        Philippe Rolland, precedessor to Delbert Burkett, was the first (at least since Herbert Marsh in the time of Regency) to identify a divergent synoptic development, one leading to Mt, another to Lk, with Mk harmonizing inbetween. However, Rolland was a stern Roman conservatiove apologist and used the Acts of the Apostles as reliable history to identify the social groups and the motivation for such a divergence; which also means that Rolland sticks subbornly to a dating of the synoptics earlier than the war described by Flavius Josephus. (Premiers Évangiles, 1984)

        However, Rolland’s textual observations, continued (as far as I see) by DB, do not depend vitally on the assumption of the validity of Acts as a historical report.

  4. On the other hand, dating the Gospel of Mark “late” (after 70) reduces the amount of storage time that must be explained between Mark’s writing and GMark’s surfacing in the Lukan circle in response to Marcionism. (I think Marcion’s gospel was not GLuke.)

    1. Canonical Luke does not appear until the mid second century, as far as I am aware — taking Justin as its earliest possible attestation, Irenaeus as it earliest definite.

      1. In response to Neil’s suggestion that “Canonical Luke does not appear until the mid second century, as far as I am aware — taking Justin as its earliest possible attestation, Irenaeus as its earliest definite”, I offer the following brief notes on the date of the “canonical” gospels of Mark, Mt and Lk in the extant writings attributed to Justin Martyr.

        Alleged evidence that Justin Martyr knew the canonical gospel of Mark:
        There is one passage in the canonical gospel of Mark that includes content that also occurs in the extant texts attributed to Justin Martyr–Mark 3:17, which reads:
        The twelve he appointed were: Simon, whom he named Peter; the sons of Zebedee, James and his brother John, whom he named Boanerges, which is ‘sons of thunder’; [καὶ ἐπέθηκεν αὐτοῖς ὀνόματα
        Βοανηργές, ὅ ἐστιν Υἱοὶ Βροντῆς] . . .
        The passage with similar content is in Justin Martyr’s Dialogue with Trypho the Jew:
        “And when it is said that he changed the name of one of the apostles to Peter; and when it is written in the memoirs of him [en tois apomnemoneumasin autou–i.e., Memoirs of Peter, not the memoirs of the apostles] that this so happened, as well as that he [Jesus] changed the names of other two brothers, the sons of Zebedee, to Boanerges, which means “sons of “thunder” [καὶ ἄλλους δύο ἀδελφούς, υἱοὺς Ζεβεδαίου ὄντας, ἐπωνομακέναι ὀνόματι τοῦ Βοανεργές, ὅ ἐστιν υἱοὶ βροντῆς] (106, ANF).

        While there are a couple of grammatical and verbal differences in the passage in gMk and Justin’s Dialogue, the most important terms—“Boanerges” and “sons of thunder” occur in both.
        This is the only reference that scholars identify as (possibly) being from our canonical gMark; Neither “Boanerges” nor “sons of thunder” occur in either gMt or gLk.

        Many Christian commentators point to this passage in Justin’s Dialogue and conclude from it that “Justin knew and used our canonical gMark. Is such a conclusion warranted from this passage? In other words, can be it be determined whether or not Justin knew our canonical Mark by just the similarities in this one passage in Justin’s Dialogue that is attributed not to the “memoirs of the apostles” but to the “memoirs of Peter”?

        Matthew and Luke and Justin: Mary of the Davidic line, not Joseph:

        In Justin’s Dialogue with Trypho, we read the following: “Since those who did that which is universally, naturally, and eternally good are pleasing to God, they shall be saved through this Christ in the resurrection equally with those righteous men who were before them, namely Noah, and Enoch, and Jacob, and whoever else there be, along with those who have known this Christ, Son of God, who was before the morning star and the moon, and submitted to become incarnate, and be born of this virgin of the family of David [καὶ διὰ τῆς παρθένου ταύτης τῆς ἀπὸ τοῦ γένους τοῦ Δαυεὶδ γεννηθήναι], in order that, by this dispensation, the serpent that sinned from the beginning, and the angels like him, may be destroyed” (Dialogue with Trypho 45)
        It is Joseph who is of the Davidic line in gMt and gLk; Mary is never said to be of the Davidic
        line in our canonical gospels.

        Could Justin have claimed that Mary was of the Davidic line if he was familiar with the
        genealogy and birth narrative in either canonical Mt or canonical Lk?

        It may also be worth noting that Protevangelicum of James (or Gospel of James) also claims
        that Mary was of the Davidic line: “And the high priest said, ‘Summon the true virgins from the
        tribe of David.’ And so the temple assistants left and searched everywhere and found seven.
        And the high priest then remembered the girl Mary, that she, too, was from the tribe of David
        and was pure in God’s eyes” (Proto 10:2-4).

        Is there a literary relationship between Justin’s Dialogue and the Protevangelicum of James? To take this a step further, could the Protevangelicum of James be one of Justin’s “memoirs of the apostles”? George Zervos thinks so (The Evangelicum of James: Greek Text, English Translatin, Critical Introduction, vol 1, T & T Clark, 2019).

        Matthew, Luke, Justin, and the Protevangelicum: Jesus born in a cave?

        Then along with Mary he is ordered to proceed into Egypt, and remain there with the child until another revelation warns them to return into Judea (Mt 2:15). But when the child was born in Bethlehem, since Joseph could not find a lodging in that village, he took up his quarters in a certain cave [ἐν σπηλαίῳ τινὶ] near the village; and while they were there Mary brought forth the Christ and placed Him in a manger, and here the Magi who came from Arabia found Him (Dialogue 78). (And, “He [Joseph] found a cave [εὗρεν ἐκεῖ σπήλαιον] nearby and took her inside. He stationed his sons to guard her and went to look for a Hebrew midwife in the country around Bethlehem” (Proto 18:1-2), and one more: “. . . after the Magi left king Herod in search of the newly born king: “And, behold, the star that they had seen in the east went before them until they came to the cave, and it stood over the top of the cave, and the magi saw the infant with his mother, Mary; and they brought forth from their bag gold, and frankincense, and myrrh, Protevangelicum of James, 21).
        According to gMatthew, the magi visited the new born Jesus in a house (“and coming into the house [oikian],” 2:11). In Luke, we’re only told that there was no room for Joseph and Mary at the inn and that Jesus was laid in a manger (2:6-7).

        Could Justin and the author(s) of the Protevangelicum have known our “canonical” gMt and gLk and written these things?

        The Acts of Pilate

        Justin attributes “prophetically fulfilled” narrative content that we find in our canonical gospels to a text he refers to as “The Acts of Pilate” (see, especially, 1 Apology, chpt 35).

        Could the no longer extant Acts of Pilate also be a source for our canonical gMt and gLk?

        All of this just to suggest that I am not so sure that we can speak of a “canonical Luke” (or “canonical” Matthew or Mark) in Justin Martyr.

        Brad McAdon

        1. Ah, great to see you set down these thoughts, Brad. I have long played with the same notions, the same problems, the same doubts. I set out a table comparing what Justin says with what we find in the various gospels, including the Protoevangelium of James:


          (Don’t look at it too closely because I have since seen a number of errors in that table but the basic info is, I believe, sound.)

          Yes, it is surely a very slight base we have to decide Justin knew our canonical Mark. It is possible but if so, surely he was not familiar with our canonical gospels that we believe are based on Mark, and he did not take his/our canonical version of Mark as “gospel”, so to speak.

          At the same time, he does have knowledge of so many other details that appear in gospels that we generally claim to be written after our canonical four. But he appeals generally to OT scripture for his information and these mysterious “memoirs of the apostles”. It’s a question I spent some time trying to resolve some years ago and am waiting new insights to be published that I expect will help me think afresh on it all. (I perhaps should not dob in names of someone I know to be working on this question.)

          1. Thanks for this, Neil.
            I agree that Justin’s sources and “memoirs” is an intriguing issue, and, it seems, an important component of the puzzle of trying to establish any reliable dates for the earliest circulation of our canonical gospels. Thanks for the link. I now have some time to give it a closer read, and I’ve been working on something like this for a while too. I’d be happy to share that with you once I finish it up. (I tried to upload a table I composed in Word a few months ago to this list, but when I did, the table format did not survive through the ether.)

            1. Feel free to send any attachments – .doc or .pdf or .xls to me by email and I can put them through a converter of sorts to post them here with original formatting.

  5. I believe Mark was written before 90, most likely in the 70s.

    I disagree with Roger Parvus and Hermann Detering. I’m quite confidence the little apocalypse is using Philo, referring to the incident with the status of Gaius.

    I put Mark shortly after the First Jewish-Roman War because I believe the writer of Mark was a personal friend of Paul’s. Assuming he was in his 30s when he travelled with Paul and Paul died in the 60s, he’d need to have written before 90 at least. Also, to give Matthew and Luke time to use Mark, Mark needs to be before 90 as well.

    I’m putting GMark into the same category as 2 Baruch. I also consider it to be a work like Daniel, which was written contemporaneously with the occupation of Jerusalem by Antiochus IV.

    I think 2 Baruch is most likely from the 70s or 80s as well for the same reason. It’s about the destruction of the Temple, so it makes sense that it would be written in close temporal proximity to the event that it is commenting on.

    1. Also, to give Matthew and Luke time to use Mark, Mark needs to be before 90 as well.

      The Gospels of Matthew and Luke are noted for the first time in the mid-second century, if I am not mistaken.

      1. True, but I’m also working from the hypothesis that the Gospels are the cause of belief in a human Jesus. Belief in a human Jesus is attested earlier than that. I take Matthew as at least the initial contributor to belief in the existence of Jesus. So, I assume that Matthew existed before the earliest attestations to belief in a human Jesus. And, I believe we get those by 110.

          1. human Jesus

            This needs to be framed in the context that outer space Jesus was human for time when he had a body of flesh manufactured for him so he could die—as a human blood sacrifice (more mojo than goat/lamb blood).

            • Carrier 2020, p. 9. “We all agree the Christians originally believed Jesus was from outer space. So the only question is, in the original creed, how far did they think he actually descended from there to effect his cosmic sacrifice?”

          2. If Paul’s letter to the Philippians precedes the gospels and Paul is citing an earlier hymn then we have our earliest witness to a Jesus who took on the “form of a man” in Philippians 2. After that, the earliest datable (more or less) reference is with Justin mid-second century. Unless one accepts the reference in Josephus’s Antiquities. (There is no mention of “Jesus” in Tacitus and Pliny, only “Christ”.) Have I overlooked any references?

            1. Well true Tacitus doesn’t say Jesus, but he says Christos killed by Pilate. Unless one claims that such a tradition existed outside of the Gospels, then it would indicate at least one Gospel had already been written.

            1. Carrier, Richard. “The Prospect of a Christian Interpolation in Tacitus, Annals 15.44.” Vigiliae Christianae 68, no. 3 (July 2, 2014): 264–83. https://doi.org/10.1163/15700720-12341171.

              Doherty, Earl. Jesus: Neither God nor Man: The Case for a Mythical Jesus. Ottawa: Age of Reason Publications, 2009.

              Drews, Arthur. The Christ Myth. Translated by C. Deslisle Burns. Amherst, N.Y: Prometheus Books, 1998.

              Hochart, Polydore. De l’authenticité des Annales et des Histoires de Tacite. Paris : Ernest Thorin, 1890. http://archive.org/details/delauthenticitd00hochgoog.

              Rougé, Jean. “L’incendie de Rome En 64 et l’incendie de Nicomédia En 303.” In Mélanges d’histoire Ancienne Offerts à William Seston, 433–431. Paris: E. de Boccard, 1974. http://archive.org/details/melangesdhistoir0000unse_j8d1.

              Shaw, Brent D. “The Myth of the Neronian Persecution.” The Journal of Roman Studies 105 (November 2015): 73–100. https://doi.org/10.1017/S0075435815000982.

  6. Additional evidence can be offered to further support the argument that the author of Mark was dependent upon Josephus for his John the Baptist character.

    There are three passages in the Antiquities chapter 18 that share similar (historical or pseudo-historical) characters and narrative themes with Mark 1 (JB coming on the scene) and Mark 6 (the death of John the Baptist): 18.96-115; 18.116-119; and 18.136. Daniel Schwartz has identified these passages as derived from three different sources—18.96-115 he identifies as Antip, which concerned the activities of Herod Antipas; 18.116-119 (the John the Baptist material) as (probably) a Jewish source; and 18.136 as from a source concerning Herod Agrippa (Agrippa 1, esp. 1-38). Brief summaries the narrative contexts and characters of these sections of Antiquities 18:

    Antipas source (Antiq 18.96-115):
    Narrative Context:
    Tiberius’s effort to establish a peace treaty with Parthian king; Herod Antipas’s role in the process; Philip’s (Antipas’s brother’s) death; the conflict between Antipas and Aretas; Antipas’s first wife (Aretas’s daughter); Antipas’s visit to his step-brother, Herod’s, home; this Herod is married to Herodias; while there, Herod Antipas falls in love with and proposes to Herodias; Herodias accepts with condition that Antipas divorce his first wife.

    Characters in this passage who are also in Mark:
    Herod Antipas; Philip (Antipas’s brother); Antipas’s first wife; Herod (Antipas’s step-brother and tetrarch of Galilee); Herodias (Herod’s wife).

    Important to note: John the Baptist is not mentioned within this context; there is no narrative relationship between John the Baptist and the characters within this passage.

    (Probably a) Jewish source (Antiq 18.116-119):
    Narrative Context:
    A flashback of sorts explaining some of the Jews’ view that Antipas’s defeat by Aretas was punishment for Antipas’s execution of John the Baptist. Josephus describes aspects of John the Baptist, his arrest, and execution at Antipas’s fortress at Machaerus.
    Characters in this passage who are also in Mark:
    Herod Antipas; John the Baptist.

    Unidentified source (Antiq 18.136):
    Narrative Context:
    Antiquities 18.127-142 is a discussion of Herod the Great’s descendants. Herodias was married to Herod (Antipas’s brother). This Herod and Herodias have a daughter, named Salome.
    After Salome’s birth, Herodias “flouted the ways of our fathers, married Antipas, parting from a living husband. Salome married Philip.
    Characters in this passage who are also in Mark:
    Herod Antipas; Herod (Antipas’s step-brother); Herodias; Herod and Herodias’s daughter, Salome; Philip, Salome’s husband.
    Important to note: John the Baptist is not mentioned within this context; there is no narrative relationship between John the Baptist and the characters within the passage.
    It cannot be emphasized enough, that John the Baptist is not mentioned or referred to in either the first or the third of these narratives, but only in the second. However, the striking similarities in narrative themes and historical characters in the first and third narratives and Mark 1 and 6 strongly suggest that the narrative material in these two sections of the Antiquities has a close literary relationship with Mark’s ‘death of John the Baptist’ narrative in Mark 6. This very close literary relationship requires an explanation.

    Three (most likely) options:
    1. the author of our canonical Mark knew, had access to, and used the same three previously independent sources that Josephus had access to, knew, and used in Antiquities 18;
    2. Josephus knew and used the gospel of Mark for much of his material in Antiquities 18:96-136;
    3. Because no other ancient text exists, or is known to have existed, that includes the similar narrative themes and characters present in Antiquities 18 and Mark 1 and 6, the most reasonable explanation, based upon what we currently know, is that the author of our canonical Mark knew and used a single source for his John the Baptist material in Mark 1 and 6, Josephus’s Antiquities Book 18.

    As for # 1, we know that Josephus, as a patron of Rome, had wide access to historical and literary sources (concerning the Romans) in composing his historical works. However, since we have no idea who wrote the gospel of Mark, we have no idea if the author would have had access to the same sources—especially sources that pertain to Roman officials (such as the Herodian court and family). Thus, # 1 seems highly doubtful.

    As for # 2, recognizing Josephus’s disdain of messianic type characters, it is inconceivable that he would have used a source like the gospel of Mark, that presented John the Baptist as a prophetic, wilderness forerunner of a messianic figure, to craft his portrayal of John the Baptist.

    Considering all the evidence, the most reasonable explanation, and one that can be supported by the textual evidence and recognized compositional practices, is that the author of Mark knew, used, and mimetically transformed material from Josephus’s Antiquities of the Jews to create his John the Baptist character similar to his practice of mimetically transforming other material from the Septuagint, such as his use of LXX Isaiah, Malachi, and Esther (to mention only a few).

    And, why would the author of gMark begin his ‘gospel’ with the very Jewish character of John the Baptist? Early Christian critics of Marcion allege that Marcion distanced Jesus from the Hebrew religion, god, and scriptures. How better to counter this claim than to begin an account of Jesus firmly grounded within Judaism, its scripture, and its prophets? If gMark is understood as a response, in part, to Marcion, then it would seem that the gospel would need to be dated much later than the composition of Josephus’s Antiquities (ca. 93/94).

    Brad McAdon

      1. db–

        I have been working on this issue and submitted a 12,000 word, detailed article to NTS about a year ago (without the suggestion that au Mark may be responding to Marcion), but the one reviewer whom the editor had (supposedly) review it wrote a one sentence response that (and I paraphrase) “Surely there was an oral tradition about Mark’s John the Baptist in circulation, possibly by the followers of JB, that Mark would have been familiar with.” Since then, I’ve been working on tracking the evidence for the existence of the canonical gospels and Paul through the second century–much of what this thread has been discussing.

        1. I assume this is also your work:
          McAdon, Brad (2017). “Josephus and Mark”. Alpha: Studies in Early Christianity. 1: 92–93. “The author of our canonical Mark may have been influenced by several texts . . . Josephus’s Antiquities Book 18, and the Septuagint. If so, there will be significant implications concerning the historicity of Mark’s John the Baptist narratives, the dating of canonical Mark, and Mark’s compositional practices.”

            1. You may find Allen’s dissertation of interest if you are not already familiar with it.

              • Per Allen, N.P.L. (2015) [Available Online].

              {§ 5.3.4 Contradiction between the NT and the BP [(John the) Baptist Passage (AJ, XVIII, 5, 2 / 116 -119)]}

              Mason (2003: 157; 213 – 225) offers another intriguing insight:

              According to the BP, Antipas arrested John primarily because he was responsible for causing civil unrest. However, the gospel accounts state that Antipas arrested John because he criticized his union with his brother’s wife.

              In this context, Mason questions why Josephus (assuming he was the author) did not see John as a dangerous popular leader. As has already been ascertained in the case of the TF, elsewhere in the AJ, such typical Jewish arrivistes are normally singled out for heavy criticism. But the author of the BP speaks of John in positive terms even calling him a good and righteous leader. This in itself is patently un-Josephan in character.

              1. Thanks for these references, db.

                As for Mason’s first insight, to be sure, there is a contradiction as to the reason that Antipas arrested JB (as I noted below). I do not see this as a problem, though, if auMark is using and transforming the BP in Josephus to fit his literary objectives.

                As for Mason’s second insight–that the BP speaks of JB in positive terms whereas he spoke of others in much more negative terms–Emil Schürer addressed in the following: “If Josephus had portrayed John, incorporating eschatological and messianic elements such as are utilized by the Gospels, then a negative verdict by Josephus would be expected. But, since Josephus portrays John in terms quite acceptable to his Greco-Roman audience, his favourable verdict is not out of line. (Peter Kirby citing Schürer in his discussion of the issue, link below).

                I did not find Allen’s chapter challenging the authenticity of the BP as strong of an argument (too speculative) as Peter’s Kirby’s defense of the passage (http://peterkirby.com/john-the-baptist-authentic.html).

                Thanks, again, for these.


    1. To play devil’s advocate:

      These were well known figures. Perhaps all of this was just common knowledge?

      How much of this is addressed in Wars?

      You mention Salome, but Salome isn’t in Mark. The name Salome occurs, but it doesn’t appear to be the same Salome.

      Mark 6:
      17 For Herod himself had given orders to have John arrested, and he had him bound and put in prison. He did this because of Herodias, his brother Philip’s wife, whom he had married. 18 For John had been saying to Herod, “It is not lawful for you to have your brother’s wife.” 19 So Herodias nursed a grudge against John and wanted to kill him. But she was not able to, 20 because Herod feared John and protected him, knowing him to be a righteous and holy man. When Herod heard John, he was greatly puzzled; yet he liked to listen to him.

      Josephus AJ:
      Herod, who was his brother indeed, but not by the same mother; for this Herod was the son of the high priest Sireoh’s daughter. However, he fell in love with Herodias, this last Herod’s wife, who was the daughter of Aristobulus their brother, and the sister of Agrippa the Great.

      Josephus AJ:
      Now some of the Jews thought that the destruction of Herod’s army came from God, and that very justly, as a punishment of what he did against John, that was called the Baptist: for Herod slew him, who was a good man, and commanded the Jews to exercise virtue, both as to righteousness towards one another, and piety towards God, and so to come to baptism; for that the washing [with water] would be acceptable to him, if they made use of it, not in order to the putting away [or the remission] of some sins [only], but for the purification of the body; supposing still that the soul was thoroughly purified beforehand by righteousness. Now when [many] others came in crowds about him, for they were very greatly moved [or pleased] by hearing his words, Herod, who feared lest the great influence John had over the people might put it into his power and inclination to raise a rebellion, (for they seemed ready to do any thing he should advise,) thought it best, by putting him to death, to prevent any mischief he might cause, and not bring himself into difficulties, by sparing a man who might make him repent of it when it would be too late. Accordingly he was sent a prisoner, out of Herod’s suspicious temper, to Macherus, the castle I before mentioned, and was there put to death. Now the Jews had an opinion that the destruction of this army was sent as a punishment upon Herod, and a mark of God’s displeasure to him.

      Josephus AJ:
      Herodias took upon her to confound the laws of our country, and divorced herself from her husband while he was alive, and was married to Herod [Antipas], her husband’s brother by the father’s side, he was tetrarch of Galilee;

      1. Thanks for this, rgprice.
        Yes, I should have used “Herodias’s daughter” instead of “Salome” in both to avoid confusion. Thanks.
        Not so sure that the narrative details in both Antiq and Mark were that widely or well known. Are there any other accounts of this narrative material in early Christian, Roman, or Jewish authors (other than Mt’s account, which is based upon Mk’s)?
        The narrative similarities between Antiq 18 and Mark (especially) 6 seem striking:
        1: Flashbacks: Both accounts are widely recognized as literary ‘flashbacks’.
        2: “Herod” instead of “Herod Antipas”: “Antipas” does not occur in any of the passages under consideration in Josephus’s Antiq, but only “Herod”; “Antipas” does not occur in Mark’s account, only “Herod”.
        3: “John a good man”: Josephus expresses that John “was a good and righteous man” (18.117); “Herod in awe of John, knowing him to be a good and holy man” (Mk 6:20).
        4: Reference to John’s arrest: Because of Herod’s suspicions, John was brought in chains to Machaerus (18.119); “Herod himself had sent men who arrested John, bound him, and put him in prison” (6:17).
        5: A reason for John’s arrest: Herod’s fear of John’s persuasive effect may lead to a form of sedition (18.118); “On account of Herodias, his brother Philip’s wife, because Herod had married her” (6:17).
        6: Herodias’s previous marriage: Herodias was previously married (18.110); Herodias was previously married (6:17-18).
        7: Herodias’s previous husband identified: Correctly as Herod’s step-brother (Herod II, 18.106); incorrectly as Philip (Mark 6:17).
        8: Herodias has a daughter: Herod II and Herodias have a daughter named Salome (18.136); Herodias’s daughter is not named in Mark.
        9: A “Philip” in both narratives: Philip as Herodias’s daughter’s (Salome’s) husband (18.136); Philip as Herodias’s first husband (Mk 6:17).
        10: Criticism of Herod and Herodias’s marriage: Herod and Herodias’s marriage criticized for traditional / religious reasons (18.136); Herod and Herodias’s marriage criticized for traditional/religious reasons (Mk 6:17).
        11: Leviticus 18:16 and 21: Implicit reference to Leviticus (18.136); implicit reference to Leviticus 6:17-18).
        12: Reasons for John’s death: Because of Herod’s suspicion that John’s ability to persuade the people may lead them to revolt (18.118); not because of John’s persuasiveness and fear of sedition, but because of his denouncing of Herod for taking his brother’s wife (Mk 6:17).
        13: Herod executes John: Antiq 18.116-19 and Mk 6:16,27).
        From a narrative perspective, it seems that the material in Antiq 18 could provide auMark with much of the narrative material that would be needed to frame the ‘death of John’ narrative in Mark 6—very similar to, as just one example, how the narrative material in LXX Jonah 1:4-16 served as his framing material for the Jesus “calming the sea” narrative in Mk 4?
        Brad McAdon

        1. Interesting. I’m not fully convinced, but I agree this has potential as an explanation. I’d like to see a more formal criticism of the preposition. Too bad it was dismissed out of hand when you submitted it.

          I will say also that I am quite confident that Mark used Philo’s Against Flaccus and On the Embassy to Gaius. Details from these were used for his trial and, I believe, the apocalypse. I think this is also where Pilate came from. But interestingly, Pilate was out of office before the situation with Caligula and the statue, but I’m quite confident that Jesus’ prediction of the desolating sacrilege is talking about the statue of Caligula.

        2. Brad McAdon wrote: “9: A “Philip” in both narratives: Philip as Herodias’s daughter’s (Salome’s) husband (18.136); Philip as Herodias’s first husband (Mk 6:17).”

          NB for those who may be confused:

          • Gillman, Florence Morgan (2003). Herodias: At Home in that Fox’s Den. Liturgical Press. ISBN 978-0-8146-5108-7.

          Herod II (born ca. 23 B.C.E.) was the son of Herod the Great and Mariamme II, daughter of the high priest Simon Boethus. As grandson of a high priest he is called Herod Boethus by some commentators, although nothing attests he was so named. Other issues also surround his name since Matt 14:3 and Mark 6:17 call him Philip. Some have posited that both Josephus and the Gospels are correct and therefore call him Herod Philip. But Herod the Great is not known to have had a son by that name. What seems more probable is that Herod II and Philip were two different people and that Mark, followed by Matthew, confused Herod II with the husband of Herodias’ daughter, Philip the tetrarch. [24] —(p. 16)

          [24] See Gary A. Herion, “Herod Philip,” ABD 3:160—61. The theory advanced by Nikos Kokkinos, “Which Salome Did Aristobulus Marry?” Palestine Exploration Quarterly 118 (1986) 33–50, at 42, that Herodias was married to both Herod II and then Philip before Antipas is contradicted by the text of Ant. 18.109–11, 136.

      1. Sorry for the delayed response, Neil–I am just reading this.
        Daniel Schwartz, Agrippa 1: The Last King of Judaea (Texts and Studies in Ancient Judaism), Mohr Siebeck, 1990, especially pgs 1-38.

        And, if anyone is interested, I would be happy to send a draft of my essay for others’ consideration / critique.

        1. I would be interested in your article Brad (gdoudna “at” msn.com). I think I may have seen a long version of your essay on a website a while ago, but then it disappeared.

  7. No, there is no online version of the book.

    The interview linked by René Salm contains a short reference to the part concerning Tacitus, specifically the lack of ancient Christian references prior to the fourth century to the fiery incident under Nero.

  8. I think a case can be made that the Fourth Gospel’s figure John which opens that Gospel and whose voice is indistinguishable from that of that Gospel’s implied author (consider the implications of that) is not to be identified with, nor does it draw literarily from, Josephus’s John the Baptist.

    The commentaries on the Gospel of John seem rarely to consider that the narrative character John with which the Fourth Gospel opens–the only character named John in the Fourth Gospel—may be the implied author of the Gospel whose ancient title attributes its authorship to him: “The Gospel according to John”, i.e. that the implied author John is written into that Gospel as its most prominent opening character told in the third person, analogous to Josephus writing in his history of a narrative character Josephus.

    In other words, the narrative character John of the Fourth Gospel is the John of the title, a different character than Josephus’s John the Baptist. This John of the Fourth Gospel–the implied author/narrative character bearing the implied author’s name–is that figure of the ca. second half of the 1st century CE traditionally understood to underlie Johannine Christianity in Asia Minor.

    The Fourth Gospel’s John—the narrative character of the Gospel of John in the opening chapters–is echoed in Rev 2-3 (a pro-John, anti-Paul voice) and in Acts 18 (an opposing view: pro-Paul and anti-John), both arguably reflecting echoes of the same post-70 context, contemporary with each other.

    The Gospel of Mark, however, identifies the Fourth Gospel’s John–the authorial/narrative character figure of that Gospel–with Josephus’s John the Baptist. Indicators of this secondary identification in the Gospel of Mark include the role of Antipas (missing in 4th Gospel; present in GMk); execution of John (missing in 4th Gospel; present in GMk); and title “the Baptist” (missing in 4th Gospel; present in GMk). Each of these elements in GMk derive from Josephus’s John the Baptist.

    As a comment addressed to Neil, while not gainsaying the development of a fully mythicizing interpretation in the way the Jesus gospel or story is presented in the Gospel of Mark, two comments for consideration. First, many of the figures other than Jesus in the Gospels draw from named Revolt-era figures in Josephus (arguably more extensively so than commonly acknowledged), such that by analogy it would not be surprising if Jesus of the Gospels too draws from a named First Revolt figure in Josephus, even if that has escaped consideration in mainstream New Testament scholarship. This would have no bearing pro or con on the distinct arguments you develop for the way Jesus as Christ is presented in the Gospel of Mark. Second, if the Gospel of Mark taken on its own, read as a text, contains nothing within it capable of answering the historicity question of its narrative characters one way or the other, it remains that there may well be, and arguably is, a non-Gospels’ argument for (if the question is of interest) historical character(s) underlying the Gospels’ Jesus no less than its other characters Philip, Pilate, Herod, John the Baptist, Simon Peter et al. The non-Gospels’ argument would turn to Josephus and Papias for figures associated with the First Revolt which may, per argument, be identified as characters which turn up later in the mythicized Gospel of Mark. That would be the argument as to method. In this light the ca. 30 CE Jesus of the Gospels vanishes either way, though the literary development of that arguably fictitious historical date context does require explanation. Such an explanation, if successful, would seem to support a relatively later rather than earlier post-70 dating of the Gospel of Mark.

    Arguably, the work of Paul after his “conversion”, as well as all of the Pauline letters in their dates of composition, postdate the 66-70 CE watershed, with the Pauline letters retained as the earliest known Christian texts, which is to say in the ca. 70-90s CE era. That must be argued, since that dating is so unprecedented in existing published scholarship in the New Testament field, but I think that argument could be made not only credibly but convincingly. In that light it would become sensible, rather than surprising, that the Gospel of Mark would be dated later than most commonly assumed, later than the ca. 93 ce publication of Josephus’s Antiquities, as independently supported from the analysis given by Brad McAdon.

    Finally, thanks to Brad McAdon for your work on the Gospel of Mark. It is distressing to hear the response received to your submission of the article. I hope you will find a different journal or means of publication for your important argument.

    1. the Fourth Gospel’s figure John which opens that Gospel and whose voice is indistinguishable from that of that Gospel’s implied author (consider the implications of that)

      Oh my god, how obvious — hidden in plain view, as they say. How could anyone have missed it! Thanks, Greg.

      As for the many names in the gospels that overlap with those in Josephus, that’s something I was fascinated with years ago and I see it’s time I revisited that question again now that I have had time to learn so much more. I don’t think there is necessarily any conflict with a view of the gospels being created as midrashic works. I think the whole reason for the emergence of the gospel narratives, especially Mark, is the one set out by Clarke Owens in his book Son of Yahweh that we’ve looked at here. Though I think his basic idea could answer more questions if written much later than 70.

      If Paul’s letters are the work of a school then it makes sense that their emergence should coincide with the time of collecting them into a single body of work, which would set them post 70. What are your reasons for thinking of them as post 70?

      1. John 1:6-10 (NKJV)

        6 There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. 7 This man came for a witness, to bear witness of the Light, that all through him might believe. 8 He was not that Light, but was sent to bear witness of that Light. 9 That was the true Light which gives light to every man coming into the world. 10 He was in the world, and the world was made through Him, and the world did not know Him. 11 He came to His own [domain], and His own [people] did not receive Him.

        John 1:6-11 (YLT)

        6 There came a man — having been sent from God — whose name [is] John, 7 this one came for testimony, that he might testify about the Light, that all might believe through him; 8 that one was not the Light, but — that he might testify about the Light. 9 He was the true Light, which doth enlighten every man, coming to the world; 10 in the world he was, and the world through him was made, and the world did not know him: 11 to his own things he came, and his own people did not receive him;

        vv.7-8, “that all might believe through him”, say ‘John’ (he, him) is going to testify about the Light.

        It’s a very abstract concept; almost gnostic. As if it’s from a separate theology to the predominant theology of the rest of the gospels, including the rest of G.John. Which would seem to fit with what Gregory Doudna says in a post below, “G.Jn’s character John is a tradition…which preceded the figure of John the Baptist in G.Mk”

        nb., v.10b, “the world did not know him”, and v.11b, “his own people did not receive him”.

        Then v.14, “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth.”

      2. The basic argument is that Paul’s letters assume Jesus as Christ which by separate argument does not predate 66-70 CE, and that there is nothing in Paul’s letters which requires a pre-70 dating of any of them.

        On 2 Cor 11:32, reference to Aretas, Nabatean king in control of Damascus, fourteen years prior to time of writing, I will argue that is a possible reference to an Aretas V, 69-70 CE (not previously known).

        On Galatians 1-2 and the visits to Jerusalem, and “conversion”, I am developing a different reading of those trips than usually understood. Basically Paul is responding to a scandal, in which opponents are telling a story different than Paul’s. My insight is that the two visits to Jerusalem of Galatians are the same visit told two different ways. The version of 1:11-24 is what Paul had told his people. In this version the conversion, located with reference to going to Arabia and returning to Damascus, is undated in absolute terms, dated in relative terms three years prior to the Jerusalem visit (which is undated).

        But Paul’s opponents have a different version of that Jerusalem visit, uncomplimentary to Paul, to which Paul responds with 2:1-21. In 2:1-21 Paul does not deny, he acknowledged and incorporates, the basic facts of the critics’ alternative version but spins it his way. Paul presents it as a separate Jerusalem visit, but that is because the critics’ (credible) version is so different from what Paul had been telling that Paul cannot claim they are the same (even though they actually are). Rather than Paul saying “I am changing my story” (in response to critics bringing out contrary credible information), Paul responds as if that is a second, DIFFERENT trip to Jerusalem, of which he has not spoken until now, which he will now explain his side of that story. In this light read the fourteen years of Gal 2:1–Paul’s response to the critics’ version of his Jerusalem visit (= the same visit of 1:18-20 in actuality, though not in Paul’s presentation)–as that visit occurring fourteen years before Paul’s time of writing of Galatians, rather than fourteen years after the visit of 1:18-20, with a sense, “through the entire fourteen years from then to now, I went up to Jerusalem once again in all that time”. The critics’ different and damaging version of Paul’s Jerusalem visit of 1:18-20, Paul says, was actually a second visit he made to Jerusalem that he had not previously told them about, and “let me explain…”

        The conversion and visit to Jerusalem itself I think may read as ca. 66 and 69 CE, corresponding to Josephus’s “Saulus”, the noble herodian gangster who with cohorts was involved in organized crime in the early 60s. In 66 Saulus, as one of the well-connected “men of power”, visits Jerusalem and leaves as part of a delegation in association with Philip b. Jacimus, commander of king Agrippa’s horsemen (= Philip the hellenist leader in the book of Acts). The Jerusalem visit of Paul of Gal 1-2 may be 68 or 69 CE, with Saulus at that point in the company of Titus and Josephus and representing Roman interests in the siege of Jerusalem, with Saulus as part of a diplomatic meeting with leaders of the Revolt.

        The story of the confrontation with Simon Peter at Antioch of 2:11f which follows, may be a version of the 70 CE visit of Titus’s entourage to Antioch after having defeated Jerusalem, with recently captured Simon bar Giora (= Simon Peter), leader of the crushed Revolt, displayed as prisoner in Antioch on the way to Rome for the triumph. In this reading Gal 2:11f is read as echoing the Jew vs. gentile issues at Antioch adjudicated by Titus at that time of War 7.96-111).

        In this reading two major Jewish Revolt leaders in Jerusalem, John of Gischala and Simon bar Giora, appear in Christian texts and legend respectively as the post-70 Johannine-Christianity John of Asia Minor, and Simon Peter, in Christian texts post-70. A third Revolt leader, Jesus ben Sapphat, a warlord in Galilee aligned with John, becomes the historical Jesus, well known to Josephus who tells in Vita of entering into secret league with Jesus and tells stories about Jesus in Galilee. Jesus’s fate is not told in Josephus but he could well have come to Jerusalem at the time John’s forces did, or by some other means. Then there is the critical incident in which Josephus tells of interceding to have an unnamed acquaintance brought down from the cross after being crucified by the Romans, given medical treatment and restored to live again, among three crucified the other two of whom died of their injuries after being taken down; the one who lived could well have been Josephus’s former comrade Jesus in light of the parallel story so central to Christianity of Jesus resurrected back to life after “Joseph of Arimethea” (= Josephus son of Matthias), “secret disciple of Jesus” (i.e. no one else knew Josephus was and Josephus was not confirming that), interceded to have Jesus taken down from the cross.

        Paul’s letters do not date themselves internally pre-70 CE, apart from the Aretas allusion understood to be Aretas IV mentioned above. The reason the letters considered genuine of Paul ARE firmly dated pre-70 by ca. 100% of New Testament scholars is paradoxically on the basis of texts which many of the same scholars openly concede are not reliable for history: namely the Gospels and Acts.

        In the end, the argument for the letters of Paul as post-70, apart from plausibility and making better sense closer to the time of publication of the collection as you noted, is its consistency with a picture in which Christian origins is arguably better understood as emerging out of and in the aftermath of the First Revolt.

        1. I have a hard time believing that the Pauline letters are post-70. There is nothing in them that addresses the war or talks about the Temple. It seems to me that if they were written any time between 70 and 135 that those issues would be unavoidable and clear. How could the letters avoid directly addressing the destruction of the Temple?

          1. Based on the “fourteen years” mentioned in passing in two letters (Gal, 2 Cor), both in my reading demarcating time from past until authorial present, and those past points being mid/late 60s, then those two letters and by extension many if not all of the others are, as a guess, ca. 80 or early 80s ce, late Vespasian or Titus. This is quite a span of time and significant geographical removal from the events of the Revolt and the destruction of the Temple. Perhaps filters of perception have prevented reading these letters as assuming these things in background context without needing to be explicitly said each time.

            In the letters is spiritualization of temple language, perhaps to be read as rhetoric in which Jewish desire for resumption of a temple is argued by Paul, in agreement with Roman policy of Vespasian, to be unnecessary and undesirable.

            Possible allusions to past defeat at the hands of the Romans. Gal 4:25, “Jerusalem which now is, and is in bondage with her children [Jews]”. Rom 11:11-12, the “fall” of the Jews makes possible salvation to the gentiles. 11:17, most branches of the tree (Jews, except for a remnant) “broken off”.

            Paul as exponent of a Vespasian-compatible ideology post-defeat of Jerusalem. The rule of Vespasian and Titus is just and divine and for the good of public tranquility, Rom 13:1-7.

            Allusions to biblical texts referring to temple service, but nothing in the letters clearly attesting contemporary or ongoing active temple service, no reference to a contemporary high priest in Jerusalem, and so on. 2 Thes 2 acknowledges an eschatological expectation of a future wicked divine claimant in the temple (notably this is a Jewish Antichrist, not a Roman one), but that is set in the future. The same text alludes to something unspecified which is, at present, preventing or restraining that from happening, perhaps Vespasian/Titus’s beneficent prevention of Jewish temple reconstruction?

            The lack of significant allusion or evidence in the letters to a runup to revolt against Rome in Judea, signals of revolutionary fervor, etc., in contrast to the ca. 40s-60s when allusions to such might be expected. Perhaps the reason for this is because, at the time of Paul’s letters, it was not as much of a live issue.

            Perhaps compare Vespasian/Roman and Pauline ideology and rhetoric in the letters toward Jews with MacArthur and Japanese post-ww2. MacArthur (so my understanding) was generally well-regarded by post-ww2 Japanese even though it was a victor’s occupation. I wonder if a survey of MacArthur speeches to Japanese audiences post-ww2 would show many overt references to the firebombings and atomic bombings of Tokyo, Hiroshima, and Nagasaki. Somehow I do not think those events would be spoken of directly by American speakers in most circumstances, unless there was specific necessity to do so. The Americans certainly were not going to apologize for those cities’ destructions. What would be the point of overtly referring to such horrors to post-ww2 Japanese civilian audiences at all? The objective was to move forward.

            I realize Paul’s letters can be, and have been, read in diverse ways including by the most serious and astute Pauline scholars. But I suspect the prior historical assumption that the letters of Paul unquestionably were pre-70 has shaped perceptions in reading those letters, and that some assumptions and readings perhaps should be revisited.

            1. John of Gischala and Simon bar Giora, appear in Christian texts and legend respectively as the post-70 Johannine-Christianity John of Asia Minor, and Simon Peter, in Christian texts post-70

              What sorts of scenarios do you imagine as the processes by which these transfers happened?

              1. I would not call the Johannine John (in GJn and Rev), and the Simon Peter, Christian traditions of the Gospels/Acts “transfers” (literary borrowings from Josephus as is the case with GMk’s JB story, as McAdon brings out) but rather “variant versions of”–later writing or compositions incorporating oral history/hearsay/legend/rumors and stories as heard from the past. This is a view retaining the much-criticized assumption of “kernels of historicity” within the literary-constructed texts of the Gospels and some of the literary sources of Acts, as opposed to complete authorial invention of those characters and stories as historical fiction. The seismic shift is instead in a different understanding of dating of the originating historical context, from that of 2nd-century CE Gospels/Acts’ retroactive constructions. I assume Paul’s letters, written without knowledge of Josephus’s writings and differing in genre from the Gospels/Acts, are less distorted views of some of these figures whom Paul knew of or encountered personally, representing true contemporary and less-legendized versions of certain figures in Josephus.

            2. Saulus … visits Jerusalem and leaves as part of a delegation in association with Philip b. Jacimus, commander of king Agrippa’s horsemen (= Philip the hellenist leader in the book of Acts)

              Can you expand a little on why you associate Philip b. Jacimus with the Hellenist leader in Acts?

              1. The argument here is that Philip the apostle = Philip the evangelist = Philip b. Jacimus. On Philip the apostle = Philip the evangelist, Christopher Matthews, Philip: Apostle and Evangelist. Configurations of a Tradition (Brill, 2002), convincingly makes that argument, that the two traditions of Philip stem from one original figure, not two, a simple doublet phenomenon.

                The identification of the Gospels/Acts’ Philip with Philip b. Jacimus has long been considered by both Russell Gmirkin and me to be one of the strongest credible identifications with a Josephus figure–and this despite Gmirkin, in a series of detailed exchanges over the past couple of years with me, strenuously disagreeing with my thinking regarding a First Revolt Jesus context, he retaining the 30s CE Jesus dating. As best of friends he is certain I am wrong, and I am certain he is wrong! 🙂 (Just as separately Russ and I have had a longstanding irreconcilable disagreement over the basic issue of which century the sobriquet-bearing Qumran pesharim date in composition and era of the sobriquet-bearing figures; Russ 2nd century bce for both, and me 1st century bce for both.)

                The story of Philip in Jn 6 involved with Jesus in the issue of providing food for an army, in a Galilean or transjordan geographical setting, arguably corresponds to Philip b. Jacimus’s similar standing. Philip’s grandfather and father had been warlords given military control in transjordan since the days of Herod the Great, and Philip himself was a general of Agrippa II. Philip in Acts has his household in Caesarea, compatible with Philip b. Jacimus’s location as general of Agrippa II. Philip hosts Paul in Caesarea, whereas in Josephus Saulus (= Paul) is associated with Philip b. Jacimus.

                Christopher Matthews (who does not think to identify Philip the apostle/evangelist with Philip b. Jacimus) notes, without perhaps considering the significance of what he notes, that Philip is an exceedingly rare name in terms of attestations, with Philip b. Jacimus apparently being the only such 1st century CE figure in the Roman near east known to be so named (this is from memory of reading Matthews a while ago–need to fact-check that for accuracy). The very rarity of the name “Philip” then becomes not only a further, but arguably a strong or close to compelling further, argument for identification of the Gospels’/Acts’ Philip, so prominent in standing in Christian tradition, with the only known Philip of the same time and of arguably similar general description known in external history, Philip b. Jacimus.

                Underlying this–parallel to my work with the Qumran sectarian texts–is a basic visceral instinct or sense that traditional scholarly notions of parallel tracks of history in which doppelganger figures in texts are assumed to represent parallel historical figures unknown to historical sources, is fundamentally mistaken.

                The Philip = Philip b. Jacimus identification, also Saulus = Paul, was argued in little-known books of Robert Ambelain, La vie secrete de saint Paul (1972) and Les lourds secrets du Golgotha (1974), published in French and then in Spanish translation in small print runs of copies, to this day not translated into English. Robert Eisenman’s works starting with Maccabees, Zadokites, Christians, and Qumran (1984), argued (apparently independently) the same identifications of Philip the Evangelist = Philip b. Jacimus (Eisenman did not include Philip the apostle in that identification), and Saulus = Paul. That book of Eisenman is where I encountered the Philip = Philip and Saulus = Paul arguments and consider those identifications to be correct. Eisenman told me he was unaware of Ambelain’s prior work. I was too before I discovered Ambelain’s work by freak accident in seeing Spanish translation editions of Ambelain’s books by complete happenstance in a bookstore in Tijuana, Mexico, which I bought.

              2. The key to the connection is Acts 8:5. Contrary to the text of Acts, the “city of Samaria” ceased to exist in 27 BCE. Herod the Great rebuilt it as a walled Herodian fortress, and renamed “Sebastia” in honor of Augustus.

                This also tells us that the author of Acts was nowhere close to being a contemporary author (which is also evidenced in Acts 8:1, as the Great Sanhedrin didn’t move to Jamnia, until after the war). ✌🏼

        2. On 2 Cor 11:32, reference to Aretas, Nabatean king in control of Damascus, fourteen years prior to time of writing, I will argue that is a possible reference to an Aretas V, 69-70 CE (not previously known).

          Omg — how many more cards do you have up your sleeve? 😉 (That’s been the one detail that has held me back from “confidently” placing Paul’s letters post 70.)

          I will need time to go through each step of your outline. Is there anything else you would like to add?

          1. Obviously the full Aretas V argument needs to be published and then vetted in published form (I intend to do that). As for “anything else”, one more thing relating to dating, and that is a point brought out by Frans Vermeiren in his book arguing that Jesus ben Sapphat = Jesus (Chronological Revision of the Origins of Christianity, 2017), also brought out by a few other writers: that Quadratus the Christian philosopher, writing ca. time of Hadrian/ca. 120s ce, referred to a contemporary existence of persons alive who had been resurrected from the dead by Jesus (Quadratus quoted Eusebius, Eccl. Hist. 4.3.1-2)

            Never mind the objection that dead people do not come back to life. That can be dismissed as a non-issue and irrelevant, given how abundantly beliefs and stories existed of people who came back to life, in times before medical knowledge and embalming. Supposedly a certain percentage of all dead people buried in medieval cemeteries came back to life, as seen by evidences of struggle of corpses in caskets later dug up. The point of interest in Quadratus’s statement is the chronological one. Survivors of the Revolt said to have been healed and raised from the dead by Jesus–Josephus refers to Jewish warriors hiding in tombs–are compatible with being claimed to still be alive in the time of Trajan or Hadrian, but incompatible with a 30 CE Jesus, on chronological grounds. One could have Quadratus mistakenly or knowingly referring to non-existent persons in the time of Hadrian, or persons who are supernaturally physically immortal or the like, and a 30 CE Jesus, but that is not an obvious reading of Quadratus’s sense, which more naturally is that persons of normal human lifespan who had been healed or raised from the dead by Jesus, in some cases, were allegedly still alive at the time of Quadratus’s letter. Papias also refers to the same. No mention is made of these persons having supernaturally extended lifespans, demigod status or the like; the reference is to past miracles in the time of Jesus of which ordinary human persons are claimed to be living contemporary testimonies to such having occurred (in the past).

    2. Thank you for this interesting post, Greg, and for your encouraging words on the article–much appreciated. I’ve ordered your chapter on JB through our library’s inter-library loan and look forward to reading it.
      Brad McAdon

        1. Its a good article. You put forward a very plausible case, however, unfortunately, like many such issues, it’s unlikely a definitive conclusion can ever be reached.

          The implications for understanding the Gospels are significant, but it also throws so many mainstream assumptions out the window that it’s unlikely to gain much support.

          If what you’re saying is correct, then it necessitates that Mark used Josephus, because now Mark and Josephus aren’t independently reporting on the same reality. That reality never existed, which forces the similarity to be one of literary dependence. Given that what you propose requires so much reshuffling, I think opposition will be quite strong.

          Nevertheless, you put forward a very plausible case.

          1. Every NT text was written after the war. The texts betray their own backdrop.

            Mark 15:27 & 42-46 plagiarized the story of Joseph bar Mathaias (not “Harimathaias”) begging Titus for his friends to be removed from the cross. Two died, and one survived. (“Life of Josephus” § 75, ca. 94 CE).

            Mark 8:22-25 talks about a healing in the village of Bethsaida. Bethsaida was built into a city, and renamed “Julius” right before Biblical Jesus’ ministry. (Josephus, “Jewish Antiquities”, 18.2.1 – ca. 94 CE)

            Mark 15:7 places Jesus among the Jewish rebels, who committed murder “in the insurrection”. There were no insurrections under the reign of Tiberius. This is talking about the First Jewish War (65-73 CE).

            Pontius Pilatus was the Praefectus Alae (“commander of the wings”) of Ala I Sebastenorum (Caesarea Maritima) & Ala II Sebastenorum (Jerusalem), in Judea. He did not have “jus gladii” power to try and execute nonviolent Galileans. That power resided in the Procurator of Jamnia (Gaius Herennius Capito) & Legatus of Syria (Lucius Vitellius, who deposed both Caiaphus & Pilatus), until 41 CE. Pilatus was actually deposed for violently removing Samaritans from Mt. Gerizim, in 36 CE.


        2. Thanks for this link, Greg.

          Very interesting discussion. While much of the argumentation depends upon several conditionals (and necessarily so), the narrative/thematic similarities that you identify are very difficult to ignore.

          Your conclusion reads:
          “If this analysis is correct—that Josephus misplaced this story to the wrong Herod in Antiquities—then there is no attestation external to the New Testament of the Gospels’ figure of John the Baptist of the 30s CE. The implication would seem to be this: either the Gospels’ John the Baptist has been generated in the story world of the Gospels, or he derives from a different figure than Josephus’s John the Baptist, secondarily conflated with Josephus’s John the Baptist.”

          If I understand your implication correctly, couldn’t it be both? That is, could not the (synoptic) Gospels’ John the Baptist have been generated in the story world of (initially auMark) by means of the author of Mark conflating Josephus’s John the Baptist (unknown to the author of Mark that Josephus’s JB figure was not, in fact, JB)?

          But then, if the John in gJohn, whose tradition predates our synoptic gospels, is a completely different (historical?) character than the synoptic gospels’ JB, how are we to explain or understand why the author of Mark adopted and transformed Josephus’s JB (followed by auMt and auLk) at the total exclusion of gJohn’s John, whose tradition (seemingly) would have also been available to them? (Or did I miss a discussion of this?)


          1. “how are we to explain or understand why the author of Mark adopted and transformed Josephus’s JB (followed by auMt and auLk) at the total exclusion of gJohn’s John”

            I think it would be that Mark simply knew of a “John”, but without much detail, and he then made the association to AJ on his own.

            But as you say, the implications here are pretty big and they get bigger the more you think about it. It’s not just that it re-dates Mark to at least the late 90s, it then calls into question how close Mark could actually have even been to the material he was writing about. If he didn’t even know that “John” wasn’t “John the Baptist” then his understanding of the earlier traditions is far less than one would otherwise acknowledge.

            Re-reading John in light of such an scenario one can imagine that there was some real prophet named John, who was credited with having had the earliest visions of the heavenly Joshua.

            My biggest question then would be, why didn’t Paul say more about this John? One can conjecture it would be because he had no desire to discuss someone who may draw attention away from his own claims to authority or connection with Christ, but as usual, we’re just left with conjectures…

          2. Thanks for the comments Brad. On your question in your second paragraph, your “That is…” example would be no different than what I meant by my first option, “generated in the story world of the Gospels”. When you suggest with reference to Josephus’s John the Baptist, that it was “unknown to the author of Mark that Josephus’s JB figure was not, in fact, JB”–that presupposes the existence of some John the Baptist figure other than the one either of Josephus or the Gospel of Mark–but there is no such entity. There is a Johannine John figure–scholars call him “John the Elder” of Asia Minor–and that John “baptizes”–but the apostle Philip baptizes; the apostles of Jesus baptize (more widely than did John, per Jn 4:1), and Jesus himself either baptized (Jn 4:1) or did not (Jn 4:2). But we do not call Philip in Samaria of Acts 8 “Philip the Baptist”; Jesus of Jn 4:1 is not called “Jesus the Baptist”; Simon Peter of Jn 4:2 (one of the baptizing disciples of Jesus) is not called “Peter the Baptist”. Why then is John of Jn 1-2 thought of as “John the Baptist”? That nickname is not in the Gospel of John. That nickname comes from GMk which gets it from Josephus’s John “the Baptist”.

            The John of Jn 1-2 has always in New Testament scholarship been thought to be “John the Baptist” of Josephus, and NOT to be the Johannine John at the heart of and claimed in the Gospel’s title to be the author of the Johannine Gospel. The features internal to the Gospel of John corresponding to Josephus’s John the Baptist are three: the name, he baptizes, and an allusion to an arrest. None of these are sufficiently specific to establish an identity with Josephus’s John the Baptist, I argue, since the name John is common (it is not inconceivable that GJn’s John could be a descendant from Josephus’s John the Baptist and in continuity with both ideology and name by that means, in light of priestly/high-priestly traditions of the Johannine John of Asia Minor, though I do not wish to press that speculation); the baptizing of John, Philip, and the disciples of Jesus and the general Christian practice thereof I take to be an initiatory rite differing from Josephus’s John’s immersions which was routine repeated Jewish purification practice pure and simple and nothing other than that; and the arrest of the Johannine John of Jn 3:24 possibly alludes to the prisoner status of the Johannine John of Rev 1:9, or else it is a secondary gloss drawn from the synoptics, one or the other.

            Then in my understanding GMk’s JB must be either (a) wholly derivative literarily from Josephus’s JB, along all the lines you have so well worked out; or (b) partly derivative literarily from Josephus’s JB, and partly derivative from the Johannine John figure (two distinct Johns told as one in GMk). I think rg price’s comment expresses the sense well, which is “b”, which as rg price also says, weighs in favor of a later date of composition of GMk than usually understood.

            This then responds to the question of your final paragraph: I do not think GMk drew solely from Josephus’s JB to the exclusion of GJn’s John (“a” above). I think it is rather “b” above, that GMk originates an identification of the Johannine John with Josephus’s JB, to become GMk’s John the Baptist, as a character in the creation of that text.

            Incidentally I have found one–and only one to my knowledge–work of serious scholarship on the Gospel of John which has argued that the Gospel’s opening and central figure named “John” … is the John of that Gospel’s ancient authorial inscription. I related very well to Neil’s reaction of astonishment at seeing something obvious in front of us for the first time, for I had the same “omg” reaction when I saw this. This insight is argued in Herman Waetjen, The Gospel of the Beloved Disciple (T&T Clark, 2005), pp. 28-30 in a section titled, “Who is that John of the superscription of the gospel?” (However Waetjen does not challenge the traditional notion of the 30s JB as the John of Jn 1-2–he sees that title as an ancient ascription of the Gospel to the traditional JB.)

            1. We really have what appears to be building and rebuilding on an original account of a trial.

              We start with the trial of John:

              John 1:
              19 Now this was John’s testimony when the Jewish leaders in Jerusalem sent priests and Levites to ask him who he was. 20 He did not fail to confess, but confessed freely, “I am not the Messiah.”
              21 They asked him, “Then who are you? Are you Elijah?”
              He said, “I am not.”
              “Are you the Prophet?”
              He answered, “No.”
              22 Finally they said, “Who are you? Give us an answer to take back to those who sent us. What do you say about yourself?”
              23 John replied in the words of Isaiah the prophet, “I am the voice of one calling in the wilderness, ‘Make straight the way for the Lord.’”

              We have a story about the trial of Paul.

              Then we end up with a story about a trial of Jesus.

              Mark 14:
              53 They took Jesus to the high priest, and all the chief priests, the elders and the teachers of the law came together. 54 Peter followed him at a distance, right into the courtyard of the high priest. There he sat with the guards and warmed himself at the fire.
              55 The chief priests and the whole Sanhedrin were looking for evidence against Jesus so that they could put him to death, but they did not find any. 56 Many testified falsely against him, but their statements did not agree.
              57 Then some stood up and gave this false testimony against him: 58 “We heard him say, ‘I will destroy this temple made with human hands and in three days will build another, not made with hands.’” 59 Yet even then their testimony did not agree.
              60 Then the high priest stood up before them and asked Jesus, “Are you not going to answer? What is this testimony that these men are bringing against you?” 61 But Jesus remained silent and gave no answer.
              Again the high priest asked him, “Are you the Messiah, the Son of the Blessed One?”
              62 “I am,” said Jesus. “And you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Mighty One and coming on the clouds of heaven.”

              Looks like one way to interpret all this is that we started with some real John, who was making claims about the coming of the Lord. Perhaps he was speaking against the high priest, stating that the Lord was unhappy with the high priest. Perhaps this John was talking about the coming of the Lord to pass final judgement against the high priest and the Jewish leadership. This would not be unusual, its theme of the DSS after all. Heck, one could even postulate that this John was the Teacher of Righteousness (but let’s not go that far). So, they arrest this John because he’s speaking out against the high priest, and maybe he even gets jailed or killed.

              The arrest and trial of this John then becomes fodder for legends that develop into the legendary arrest and trial of Paul, which in turn becomes inspiration for the tale of the arrest and trial of Jesus in GMark.

              The thing is, there are a lot of arrests and trials going on here. Granted, its possible, but we have three major figures from early Christian lore who all underwent very similar arrests and trials.

              Seems possible that the whole sting started with some real guy proclaiming the coming of the Lord (not even Joshua) and that this guy got arrested and killed, and then after his death his followers took it from there, talking about the coming of the Lord. One can even imagine the possibly of some John talking about the coming of the Lord YHWH, which then morphed into the coming of the Lord Yeshu’a.

              All speculation of course, but it makes you think… (or at least me)

            2. Many thanks to rgprice and Greg for these detailed and thoughtful responses–they help me to understand more clearly the relationship and distinction between gMark’s ‘John the Baptist’ and gJohn’s ‘John’ who baptized and who ‘was the John of that gospel’s ancient authorial inscription’–very interesting new ideas to me and new avenues to pursue. Much to consider. Thank you.


    3. Are you saying that according to this reading, the Gospel of John would actually be the first gospel and that Mark copied from John?

      In addition, you’re proposing that the Pauline ministry took place after the destruction of the Temple?

      1. On your first question, no, the Gospel of John in its present form I assume postdates the Gospel of Mark. But GJn’s character John is a tradition of its John which preceded the figure of John the Baptist in GMk (in which the Johannine John of GJn is identified in GMk with Josephus’s John the Baptist and embellished). This would be a special case of what a number of scholars have thought concerning GJn in other ways, that despite postdating the Gospel of Mark, GJn preserves some independent and earlier traditions compared to the synoptics.

        On the second question, yes.

        1. This would be a special case of what a number of scholars have thought concerning GJn in other ways, that despite postdating the Gospel of Mark, GJn preserves some independent and earlier traditions compared to the synoptic.

          Can you point us to some of the discussions along these lines — that GJn preserves pre-synoptic trads?

          1. I think there is an extensive bibliography which could be compiled on that though I do not have such at hand. Right now on the Bible and Interpretation site there is such a discussion by Paul Anderson (#2 at https://bibleinterp.arizona.edu/articles/balderdash-dozen-critically-flawed-biblical-scholarship-views-destined-deservedly-dust-bin), whose publications cited at the end of that article themselves cite and engage the further bibliography on that. Anderson himself (a decent man whom I know) makes the case from a “conservative” standpoint, but my sense is that this is not to be pigeonholed as a “conservative” position but has scholarly standing across the spectrum.

      1. Does anybody have any thoughts on Iōánnēs Boanergés (John son of thunder)?

        Carrier opines that the relevant material to fully understand this in context is lost.

        Per MacDonald (2014): “one set of brothers should instantly come to mind: Castor and Polydeuces, the twin sons . . . known as the Dioscuri, “Sons-of-Zeus.” Zeus, of course, was the god of thunder and lightning, and the Dioscuri were sailors; they were among the Argonauts who accompanied Jason to retrieve the golden fleece.”

      2. rgprice: “So are you saying then that the John of this tradition may be the John of the Jerusalem church that Paul mentioned in his letters?”

        My answer: There is only one mention of a “John” in the letters of Paul, Gal 2:9, “James and Cephas and John”, one of a group of three whom Paul met at Jerusalem. Assuming Cephas is Peter, who are the James and John of that reference? I am not sure, but see the following.

        db: “does anybody have any thoughts on Ioannes Boanerges (John son of thunder)?”

        Well the synoptic gospels speak of two brothers prominently associated with Simon Peter to form a top three, James and John, “sons of Zebedee”. The Fourth Gospel–the Gospel of Johannine Christianity based on a message attributed to its John figure introduced to the reader of that Gospel in its opening chapter–(who is NOT John the son of Zebedee)–has no interest in the sons of Zebedee as characters in that Gospel. In the one mention at 21:2 of “the (sons) of Zebedee”, the two brothers understood as the referent of that allusion, just as in the synoptic gospels, are spoken of together with each other, even if unnamed. Only GLuke, the latest of the synoptics, contains passing mention of a John named alone who is implied to be John of Zebedee.

        Compare War 4.235 and 5.290, two brothers named James and John, “sons of Sosa”, brothers, the first two of four named commanders of Idumean warriors who came to Jerusalem in support of the Revolt. By other indications in War these Idumean commanders may have come to be allied with Simon bar Giora under his command (= Simon Peter). Could that be a version of a triumvirate of Revolt leaders inside Jerusalem–the leadership of the Simon bar Giora faction–underlying Paul’s allusion to having encountered in his visit to Jerusalem: “Peter, James, and John”? If so, the John of that Galatians reference would not refer to the Johannine John (= John of Gischala). The Galatians reference would be to the John of a Simon bar Giora-led triumvirate of commanders, by this interpretation.

  9. I just got Markus Vinzent’s book Marcion and the Dating of the Synoptic Gospels. It will be an interesting reading as it states the Gospels to be dated between 138 and 144 AD.

  10. Greg — a couple more questions:

    Can you comment on Paul’s reference to James being the Lord’s brother? In what sense was he “the Lord’s brother”?

    Who were Paul’s opponents? Whence did they arise? What were their disagreements with Paul?

    Was the Josephan Jesus ben Sapphat a warlord/bandit as Josephus depicts him?

    Do your views in any way overlap with Joe Atwill’s?

    1. Neil, I have put some thoughts re the Ant 20 James passage in a comment below to Giuseppe. In my understanding the sense in both Josephus and Paul in Galatians would be that James was a natural brother of Jesus. But the question of interest is who was Jesus.

  11. Neil, I would like to pass on comment on the James question for now because of still thinking about that one, however good and relevant that question is. I would like to get back to you later on that. Similarly with the Paul’s opponents question. On Jesus ben Sapphat, I assume he was a warrior/bandit as Josephus portrays. I don’t know how much overlap there is with Joe Atwill. I don’t think Johannine Christianity can have been a Roman plot, for as I see it John began as an anti-Roman Revolt leader, and Revelation–in the form known to us a 90s CE publication but drawing heavily on visions from the 66-70 CE Revolt as I see it, published in a “when prophecy fails” reworking/edited edition–is stridently anti-Roman (and anti-Josephus too if the second beast of Rev 13:11-18 is identified as a ca. 70 CE prophecy referring negatively to Josephus, as I argued in a student paper long ago and think still may be correct). Whether Paul was working on his own in alignment with Flavian (Vespasian) policy and interests, or had financial sponsorship, etc., I do not know, but there is a basic case for Pauline Christianity at minimum being compatible with and harmonious with Roman interests and ethics. I don’t think the Romans created Christ in order to trick Jews into worshipping Vespasian or Titus without their knowing it. Josephus refers to a short-lived attempt on his part to proclaim Vespasian as the Jewish messiah but since there is no evidence (to my knowledge) that that idea ever took any traction among either Jews or gentiles, I assume that it simply went nowhere.

    1. Josephus refers to a short-lived attempt on his part to proclaim Vespasian as the Jewish messiah but since there is no evidence (to my knowledge) that that idea ever took any traction among either Jews or gentiles, I assume that it simply went nowhere.

      Suetonius, Life of Vespasian 4.5 –
      “There had spread over all the Orient an old and established belief, that it was fated for men coming from Judaea to rule the world. This prediction, referring to the emperor of Rome – as afterwards appeared from the event – the people of Judaea took to themselves.”
      Tacitus, Histories 5.13 –
      “The majority [of the Jews] were convinced that the ancient scriptures of their priests alluded to the present as the very time when the Orient would triumph and from Judaea would go forth men destined to rule the world. This mysterious prophecy really referred to Vespasian and Titus, but the common people, true to the selfish ambitions of mankind, thought that this exalted destiny was reserved for them, and not even their calamities opened their eyes to the truth.”

      Tacitus Annales 14.47 –
      At the close of the year, report was busy with portents heralding disaster to come — lightning-flashes in numbers never exceeded, a comet (a phenomenon to which Nero always made atonement in noble blood); two-headed embryos, human or of the other animals, thrown out in public or discovered in the sacrifices where it is the rule to kill pregnant victims. Again, in the territory of Piacenza/Placentia, a calf was born close to the road with the head grown to a leg; and there followed an interpretation of the soothsayers, stating that another head was being prepared for the world; but it would be neither strong nor secret, as it had been repressed in the womb, and had been brought forth at the wayside.

      Cassius Dio repeats Josephus in Roman Hist. 65=66-1.4

      and, Cassius Dio Roman Hist. 65=66-8

  12. About Peter == Simon bar Giora, this may be a clue, proving that the Gospel author of the episode knew the historical truth:

    Matthew 12:38-39
    Then some of the Pharisees and teachers of the law said to him, “Teacher, we want to see a sign from you.”
    He answered, “A wicked and adulterous generation asks for a sign! But none will be given it except the sign of the prophet Jonah.

    Greek σημεῖον sounds similar to Shimon of Jonas = Simon bar Jonas = Simon Bariona , alias:

    Simon the Zealot, Simon the Sicarius, and Simon Sicarius.

    But clearly, the difficulty of the reading is: if it was a mistaken exchange of people, then the allusion to Simon bar Giora would be not expected, and vice versa. How much innocent was ‘Mark’ (or ‘Matthew’) when he placed under Pilate the legend of a Jesus lived under Titus?

    1. Giuseppe, semeion of the prophet Jona — Shimon barjona … hmm, hard to tell if that is an intentional pun or Rorschach Inkblot seeing of points-of-coincidence in clouds in the sky.

      But here is a different piece of trivia for you along this line. How did the trial of Jesus of the basic Passion Story, a trial in which one version or earliest version had Jesus tried and released by the Roman governor (that is the Barabbas version) … come to be set in the time of Pilate? I do not know, apart from a working assumption pending some better theory, that it was (a) an unsurprising kind of mistake by authors removed in time and space who did not know better, in (b) a second-century ce composition context, and, less tentatively, (c) the Pilate date context is wrong, on grounds which have been and to be argued independently establishing that argument.

      With that preamble, the trivia item for you: I have noticed that the spelling of the Roman governor “Albinus” in Hebrew could be graphically misread in scribal copying as the Hebrew spelling of the Roman governor “Pilate”, written in routine square letter script of the era. Albinus = aleph, lamed, bet, nun, waw, samekh. Pilate = pe, lamed, tet, waw, samekh. I wrote these letter strings on paper the way these letters are written in “Herodian formal” script familiar from Qumran texts. lamed = lamed, bet + nun = tet (very plausible graphic misreading), waw = waw, samekh = samekh. The only slight distinctive difference is in the first letters, aleph and pe, which weakens the idea but the whole-word match is similar graphically if the difference between the aleph and pe, which also are not entirely dissimilar each featuring a pointed “tent-shape” as central, was not clear.

      The trial of Jesus of the Passion story–the version in which Jesus was released not executed–as brought out by Wedeen’s work on Jesus b. Ananias of the Revolt, has correspondences to the trial of the legendized story of Jesus b. Ananias told in Josephus’s writing of War mid-70s. The interesting detail is that Josephus’s telling of Jesus b. Ananias includes a specific date for that trial, associated with or following a feast of tabernacles seven years and five months prior to Passover 70, which is to say ca. late 62, if that chronological detail is taken literally, which is ca. time of Albinus as Roman governor. (Does the patrononymic “bar Ananias” relate to a confusion in hearing with “Bannus”?) An interesting further coincidence is the similar sound of the names Joseph Caiaphas (the high priest judging Jesus in the Passion Story) and “Joseph Cabi”, the immediate-predecessor high priest who had just been removed before 62 ce but as the most recent high priest emeritus presumably could have played an influential role in any legal proceedings such as e.g. Jesus b. Ananias.

      I also have considered a different interpretation of the Ant. 20 James “brother of Jesus called Christ” passage than heretofore (to my knowledge) considered. That passage, understood to tell of the death of James, is dated by Josephus at about the very same time as, independently, the trial of Jesus b. Ananias, i.e. ca. 62 or 63 Albinus. (The exact absolute date of Albinus’s start as governor is not quite certain, due to uncertainty concerning the end date of predecessor governor Festus–the dates found in standard discussions for those are reconstructed with various reasonings, but fall short of hard evidence in perhaps a ca. 1-2 yr. range of uncertainty there.) I have considered that what underlay the story of Ant 20 may have been James, “brother of Jesus”–perhaps the very Jesus who had just been tried and released?–accusing those who had been responsible for charging Jesus and unsuccessfully attempting to have him executed by the Roman governor. That is, James of Ant 20 is brought forward as the accusing witness, and it is the “others” (not James) who were the unspecified lawbreakers delivered up to be judicially stoned by high priest Ananias, on the basis of testimony leveled by witness James. James himself, in this conjectured alternative interpretation (even if the Greek text of Ant. differs or is unclear in wording on this), would not be executed in 62 ce. It is the “others” who were stoned, due to charges testified to by prosecution witness James, “brother of Jesus”. (Clan payback for the trial of Jesus?) And Josephus himself, as a further passing note, may have been absent in Rome in his trip by ship to Rome at that time, lacking personal familiar knowledge of the events and specifics transpiring in Jerusalem in his absence.

      What then did become of James “brother of Jesus called Christ” if he did not die in 62 ce? Josephus’s works do not say, but Hegesippus’s legend of James the Just being thrown off the temple–reflecting a different story of James’ death than the reading of James as stoned in Ant 20–could be situated a little later in Jerusalem of the Revolt ca. 66-70, which would be in better agreement with the belief remembered in Origen and Eusebius that “the more sensible even of the Jews were of the opinion that [the death of James] was the cause of the siege of Jerusalem” and Vespasian invaded immediately after.

      1. The best candidate for the role of the “releaser” (and remember that the Semitic root PLT means “to release”, per Dubourg) is not only Albinus (who released J. Ben Ananias), but Titus himself, when he “releases” the still living Jesus ben Saphat from the cross behind request by Josephus. Curiously, the idea that Bar-Abbas was released and not crucified is interpreted by Stahl/Couchoud as an anti-marcionite episode and/or interpolation: the Jesus “called Christ” is the real crucified Jesus, while the “false” Jesus Son of Father (the same of the GJohn tradition) is merely released. I wonder if, under the Vermeiren’s scenario, this Barabbas episode was originally an apology designed to correct who confused (still) the Christian Jesus with the “released” (from the cross) Jesus ben Saphat. I wonder if Josephus himself introduced the idea that too much often, the followers of the Messianic leaders died, while the leaders were able to save themselves even after the defeat (see the fate of the ‘Egyptian Prophet’, for example, or the embarrassing failed fugue of Simon Bar Giora). Hence, by having PiLaTe as the Releaser, the idea should be someway implicit (i.e., deliberate) that a false Jesus has to be released to glorify in his place, on the cross, the true (theological) Jesus.

      2. Gregory Doudna wrote

        I have noticed that the spelling of the Roman governor “Albinus” in Hebrew could be graphically misread in scribal copying as the Hebrew spelling of the Roman governor “Pilate”, written in routine square letter script of the era.

        It may not have been a misread by the author of Mark. If that author was using aspects of Josephus (and other similar works) he could have ‘played’ with words to craft what could well be his new midrashim.

      3. Greg, if you can scan an image of the scripts for Albinus and Pilate and email it to me I can post it here to make the point more clearly.

        Re the possible confusion of names, there is another possibility: rather than confused memory or hearing, authors are deliberately playing with puns. What do the names signify? What third options do they sound like?

      4. I will see if I can get a scan to you Neil.

        Concerning the suggestion that instead of “scribal mistake” perhaps consider intentional wordplay, with reference to an hypothetical graphic confusion between hebrew “Albinus” and “Pilate” … not in this specific case! In my experience with Qumran texts such as the pesharim in which there is a lot of wordplay, that wordplay happens with words that sound alike or similar in hearing: they may sound exactly the same but are different words (homonyms); or they may sound similar or only slightly altered to give very different meanings (puns; extraction of hidden meaning from quotations from ancient prophetic books as a form of divination) … double-entendres … all of that phenomena is intentional in composition, and all of those phenomena are retained in the text no matter how many times that text is accurately recopied, to be appreciated by future hearers–hearing those texts read aloud–any time that text is heard. It is based on similar sounding words with turns of meaning to produce the pun or insult or nickname or double-entendre or hidden mystery revealed or whatever.

        But graphic misreading–a scribe’s misreading of letters in copying–e.g. a bet (B) closely followed by a nun (N) mistakenly read by a scribe as a pe (P), of the present hypothetical example … that phenomenon is always unintentional, a mistake, never intentional on the part of authors or copyists, to my knowledge. I know of no cases of graphically similar (but dissimilar in sound) letters being the basis for intentional authorial-composed wordplay. (If someone could cite cases or an article that cites cases showing such a phenomenon in biblical or Qumran texts, I would be interested.) Note there is plenty of wordplay involving words distinguished only by yod/waw interchange, and yod/waw have little or no difference graphically and are frequently confused graphically, but that is not what I mean, for in that case yod/waw is both a graphic and a sound similarity (waw and yod being vowels).

        Graphic misreading likely was the single greatest source of ancient text variants. In scribal copying, it seems a scribe would either personally read (presumably voiced aloud), or listen as it was read aloud to him/her by someone else, a small string of several words, which would then be held in short-term memory while the scribe wrote those words onto the parchment, then listened for the next string of words and repeated, and so on. Once the copy was completed (this scribal activity being the ancient equivalent of making a photocopy except more labor-intensive and subject to error), it would be proofread. It seems the proofreading would consist of reading the text through carefully to spot obvious errors or misspellings, incongruities in sense, or words that did not look right, analogous to how a modern computer spell-checker operates. Qumran texts show corrections entered interlinearly, words crossed out and so on from these proofreadings. But just as with a computer spell-checker, what can go wrong is if a scribal copying error by accident happened to correctly spell a different word that also reads sensibly syntactically. In that case, just like the computer spell-checker, the ancient human proofreader might not catch the error, and the error would now enter the stream of all copies descending from that exemplar in the future.

        Therefore if “Albinus”, hypothetically, were misread by a scribe as “Pilate”, that would only have originated as a mistake, and would not be intentional. If a scribe saw “Albinus” and knew that it read “Albinus”, and decided for whatever reason to change that to “Pilate” in copying, that would be an edit, or part of rewriting of a text to compose a new text. But if that happened, future scribes would see only “Pilate”, and the earlier “Albinus” would no longer exist. And I am not aware of any case of a scribe intentionally writing sloppily for the purpose of tricking or fooling a future scribe into mistakenly copying some different word. I discussed these and more scribal arcanae in my Pesher Nahum tome of 2002, and exhaustive data and analysis can be found in Emanuel Tov, Scribal Practices and Approaches Reflected in the Texts Found in the Judean Desert, Brill, 2004.

        1. From Greg Doudna:

          Letters varied in how they were written and how closely together, often touching, but this gives an idea of one scribal hand. I traced these from drawings by Ada Yardeni based on letters from 11QPs (The Book of Hebrew Script, 2010 ed., p. 128), which Cross terms “late Herodian formal”. As you  can see the first letters, aleph and pe, are sufficiently different that under normal circumstances would not be confused, but if that first letter was say smudged or defaced, the rest of the letters would have good precedents in Qumran texts for the kind of scribal errors that happened.

      5. But here is a different piece of trivia for you along this line. How did the trial of Jesus of the basic Passion Story, a trial in which one version or earliest version had Jesus tried and released by the Roman governor (that is the Barabbas version) … come to be set in the time of Pilate? I do not know, apart from a working assumption pending some better theory, that it was (a) an unsurprising kind of mistake by authors removed in time and space who did not know better, in (b) a second-century ce composition context, and, less tentatively, (c) the Pilate date context is wrong, on grounds which have been and to be argued independently establishing that argument.

        Can you give us some sources that argue your point c, please? — or summarize their case here.

        The “obvious” reason I have thought the setting of Pilate’s time for Jesus was simply that it was 40 years before the war and destruction of Jerusalem — as per Jesus’ prophecy. I am sure there must be discussions available of this viewpoint though the only item I have in my collection is an article titled Sub Pontio Pilato: The Chronological Analogue of Supercessionism? dated 2008, with Trondheim noted as its place of composition, and set out in publishable format, but without any author name! If anyone knows who the author is please do tell us here

      6. “Can you give us some sources that argue your point c, please? — or summarize their case here.”

        The short answer is the argument for a Jesus dated at the time of the First Revolt instead of Pilate I think remains to be made and published in a fully effective way, but there have been some explorations. The two most important existing ones for this purpose at present I think would be Lena Einhorn, A Shift in Time: How Historical Documents Reveal the Surprising Truth About Jesus (2016), and Frans Vermeiren, A Chronological Revision of the Origins of Christianity (2015).

        Key issues I see are getting established the dating of Paul’s letters to the 70s-90s ce era; also interpretation of Revelation as a text published in its present form 90s ce in agreement with external tradition arguably coming from Papias, but drawing upon (and re-presenting with interpretation of the “delay”) oracles from 70 ce as sources. The picture I see is this: there are two major Revolt commander figures at the end at Jerusalem, John and Simon (bar Giora)–a third told in Josephus, Eleazar, at this point was subordinated to have become part of John’s party–and as Josephus tells, these two figures, John and Simon, despite previous warring, united in alliance against the Romans as the siege got underway in the spring of 70. The proposal is that those two commanders of Jerusalem at the end are to be identified with John of Asia Minor/Revelation, and Simon Peter of Christian tradition, respectively. Further, the historical late-2nd century ce “Simonians” of Judea and Samaria against whom the late 2nd-century heresiarchs polemicized, I suspect may well descend in continuity from the significant organizing activity of Simon bar Giora who aroused the countryside with hopes for autonomy from Rome. In this picture the “Simonians” are historical, and their origin-tradition figure Simon goes back to Simon bar Giora. Simon Peter and Simon Magus become variant traditions in legend of Simon bar Giora.

        But there is a missing element in our knowledge of the leadership of Jerusalem of the Revolt, 70 ce, seemingly a lacuna in Josephus’s recounting: who was the serving high priest in the temple in Jerusalem in 70 ce? Josephus is just blank in naming directly who functioned as high priest in the temple during the siege of 70. At that point John had military control of the temple and its precincts, so whoever the high priest was functioned with John’s permission, but John did not himself function as high priest. In reading Revelation’s 70 ce oracles in the light of Revelation’s later composition in the name of 90s ce John, and comparing it to Josephus, I am beginning to discern that a lot would make sense concerning how Christian views of Jesus in heaven, etc. could have taken form after a death or disappearance, if Jesus had functioned as high priest of the temple at the end. That would be a mechanism for how Jesus ben Sapphat (who plausibly came to Jerusalem from Galilee as part of and/or aligned with John’s party) could be “superior” to both John and Simon, in later Christian historiography and at the time in fact, and then be divinized in the heavenly temple et al as heavenly Christ–and be consistent with Josephus’s history-telling and description of the Revolt. John and Simon were commanders of armies and governance of the city, but the high priest was higher in the divine pecking order, supreme divine authority, oracle-giver, with semi-divine status vicariously enacted in pageantry on the holydays.

        So there is how the focus could come to be on Jesus as Christ in the aftermath of the catastrophe of the utter defeat of the Revolt–a “dead and resurrected and ascended to heaven” Jesus, “high priest (now) in heaven”, ascribed messianic status in heaven, as only a slight extension of how that high priest while on earth already had been regarded by warriors of John and Simon loyal to the temple cult. In this light a high priest of 70 ce could easily become the pivotal heavenly figure of Revelation in the 90s ce text of Revelation of John, and the high priest of 70 could be the issuing authority of some of the oracles of Revelation, issued from the temple to encourage and inspire the warriors of John and Simon (in the midst of a war objectively going badly).

        The positive argument for the thesis is it arguably makes better sense in explanatory power; the prosopography and names become identifiable with known figures of the 60s ce rather than doppelgangers whose narratives in history are supposed into existence in the 30s based on the Gospels/Acts; and lack of evidence outside the Gospels for a 30 ce Jesus.

        Falsification of the 70 ce Jesus idea would be if (a) it can be demonstrated to historians’ standards that there existed belief in Jesus as heavenly Christ prior to the Revolt; or (b) it can be determined to be implausible or unreasonable, on historians’/anthropologists’-standards grounds, that a human figure of interest following a death or disappearance could be regarded as instantly ascended to heaven and deified and the source of visions to followers still on earth–as opposed to notions that that kind of a transformation in status of a human figure would take longer periods of time to evolve or develop.

        1. Frans Vermeiren, as you know, does suggest Jesus ben Sapphat “seems to be a priest since he appears in public holding a copy of the Law of Moses.”

          I have a hard time getting my head around the evangelists taking figures from Josephus’s War and rewriting them the way they did in the gospels.

          I find it easier to imagine authors who are familiar with the persons and events of Josephus’s War allowing that knowledge to help shape some of the narrative they are attempting to construct about “new Israel” represented by a Jesus set 40 years before the fall of Jerusalem. But by that I am thinking of a process that is far removed from attempting to rewrite the Josephan names. With “warlords” like Simon and John very much in the minds of authors who are seeking to create a new narrative for a renewed “Judaism” post 70/135, a task made necessary by the actions of the likes of Simon and John (and even Simon bar Kokhba?), taking the names of the historical villains and using them as foils for the beginning of a new people of God.

          1. [using accounts of “persons and events of Josephus’s War“] to help shape some of the narrative…about “new Israel”, represented by a Jesus set 40 years before the fall of Jerusalem … using them as foils for the beginning of a new people of God

            I think that’s feasible. And such a narrative may well have found a readership or an audience as much or even more after the bar Kokhba (or even during or after the Kitos War of 115-7 ce).

            And setting the notion of a ‘new Israel’ —a notion of an already ‘renewing Judaism’ (even if by way of rewriting history)— before the negativity of the conflicts and abominations arising from them (even before the Alexandrian pogroms/riots of 38 and 40 ce) would have helped people to set the abominations aside and embrace the new narratives.

        2. Neil, while I understand the argument for the gospels as midrash with a fictitious Jesus giving prophecies set a generation before the Revolt, I do not know that the detail of “forty years” enters into it as such. None of the gospels mention an explicit “forty years”, and it is not clear that ancient readers would obviously indirectly infer “forty years” from the text either. The 30 ce date for Jesus’s crucifixion is a modern scholarly date, not in the texts such that an ancient reader would know that. Mark and Matthew give no date other than Pilate, which we understand to mean sometime between 26 and 36 ce, but would ancients even know that? The only more specific date is Luke who gives a precise date for John the Baptist of 29 ce (fifteenth year of Tiberias, Lk 3:1), which an ancient reader could figure was 41 years before the destruction of the temple if the ancient reader knew accurate dates for the emperors–but that is not 40 and it also is not a date for Jesus. If there was an intentional forty-years scheme in the minds of the gospel authors they seem to have made no effort to make that clear to readers, which raises the question whether it was in the authors’ minds to begin with. The caveat on this detail does not negate the worthy arguments you and others develop otherwise for the Gospel of Mark as midrash set fictitiously in a pre-Revolt historical context.

          1. I’m aware of the lack of explicit evidence for the date and I don’t see any reason to think that whoever set the events in the time of Tiberius/Pilate would expect readers to twig to that point from reading the gospel. I’ll try to set out my reasons for thinking that is seems quite likely (obviously I’m not betting my house on the thesis) the 40 years before Jerusalem’s fall in a post some time. Several of the arguments I’ve lifted from a recently retrieved document I recovered after what was many years of neglect: unfortunately, the paper is anonymous. I do hope I can find a way to track down the author.

            1. In the Gospels, during the trial, the verb “to release” (or “to deliver”) is associated with Pilate in a remarkable way:
              4 times in Mark:

              Mark 15:6

              Now at that feast he released unto them one prisoner, whomsoever they desired.

              Mark 15:9
              But Pilate answered them, saying, Will ye that I release unto you the King of the Jews?

              Mark 15:11
              But the chief priests moved the people, that he should rather release Barabbas unto them.

              Mark 15:15
              And so Pilate, willing to content the people, released Barabbas unto them, and delivered Jesus, when he had scourged him, to be crucified.

              …and 4 times in Matthew:

              Matthew 27:15
              Now at that feast the governor was wont to release unto the people a prisoner, whom they would.

              Matthew 27:17
              Therefore when they were gathered together, Pilate said unto them, Whom will ye that I release unto you? Barabbas, or Jesus which is called Christ?

              Matthew 27:21
              The governor answered and said unto them, Whether of the twain will ye that I release unto you? They said, Barabbas.

              Matthew 27:26
              Then released he Barabbas unto them: and when he had scourged Jesus, he delivered him to be crucified.

              …5 times in Luke:

              Luke 23:17
              (For of necessity he must release one unto them at the feast.)

              Luke 23:18
              And they cried out all at once, saying, Away with this man, and release unto us Barabbas:

              Luke 23:20
              Pilate therefore, willing to release Jesus, spake again to them.

              Luke 23:22
              And he said unto them the third time, Why, what evil hath he done? I have found no cause of death in him: I will therefore chastise him, and let him go.

              Luke 23:25
              And he released unto them him that for sedition and murder was cast into prison, whom they had desired; but he delivered Jesus to their will.

              …and 5 times in John:

              John 18:39
              But ye have a custom, that I should release unto you one at the passover: will ye therefore that I release unto you the King of the Jews?

              John 19:10
              Then saith Pilate unto him, Speakest thou not unto me? knowest thou not that I have power to crucify thee, and have power to release thee?

              John 19:12
              And from thenceforth Pilate sought to release him: but the Jews cried out, saying, If thou let this man go, thou art not Caesar’s friend: whosoever maketh himself a king speaketh against Caesar.

              …same association in Acts 3:13 :

              The God of Abraham, and of Isaac, and of Jacob, the God of our fathers, hath glorified his Son Jesus; whom ye delivered up, and denied him in the presence of Pilate, when he was determined to let him go.

              This insistence is understandable when we know that the name Pilate has the same root (PLT) as the Hebrew verb PâLaT which means “to save”, “to deliver”.

            2. That’s interesting Giuseppe: PLT, in piel, “deliver to safety”, cause to escape, etc. which as you note is central to the theme of release of Jesus/Barabbas, though there is another wrinkle: would it be a good or bad thing for this figure, Jesus/Barabbas, in the custody of the Roman governor, to be “released to” Jewish accusers who want to kill him? Is there a double-entendre at work there? The way Christians interpreted it in the book of Acts, Jesus was “released to the Jews”–who then crucified Jesus. However, that double-entendre may be a little subtle; the straightforward narrative sense is a contrast between execution and release to freedom on the part of the governor.

              Then the question is whether PLT/”deliver to safety” has significant or accidental correspondence to the consonants of the name Pilate. This is a subjective response, but I find it difficult to see the ancient author having a story about a release of a prisoner, wanting to set it fictitiously in the term of a Roman governor (any Roman governor of the right era will do), reading down a list of governors and noticing “Pilate” as a pun on PLT, deliverance, saying “aha!” and that being the controlling factor in the choice of Pilate. What seems more likely, if there is something to this pun, would be Pilate already was the governor of the story for whatever reason, and the “Pilate”/”deliverance” pun then is noticed or created and attention called to it in authorial composition as wordplay–such as highlighting “deliverance” in the story more than usual (as if the author is saying to the reader, “do you get it?”). So if that wordplay exists, it would follow after the fact, rather than precede and create the fact, of the existence of Pilate in the story, as I see it.

              A further consideration is that this wordplay only works in Hebrew, and does not work in Greek, yet the Gospels as we known them are Greek compositions. So if an hypothesis of authorial wordplay is correct it must occur, and can only have occurred, in some Hebrew source prior to being translated or rewritten into Greek with no wordplay on this point present in the Greek text. But if there were a Hebrew source, I could see an after-the-fact wordplay occurring along the lines you suggest.

              1. Hi Greg, yes, this wordplay only works in Hebrew. I find in Greek that Pylatis is an attribute of Athena, meaning ‘gate-keeper’. Athena with the javelin resembles the Latin definition of Pilatus: one armed with javelin. Hence, I wonder if this supports the Doherty/Carrier’s paradigm of demonic gate-keepers (killers of celestial Jesus) in heaven being replaced by a human ‘Gate-Keeper’, i.e. “Pilate”.
                For a thing, Irenaeus reports a Gnostic myth about the soul’s ascension through heavens up to supreme god: during the way, the magic password to pass through the demonic gate-keepers is: “I am a son from the Father — the Father who had a pre-existence, and a son in Him who is pre-existent” (I, 21:5). Is it only a coincidence that Bar-Abbas is released by Pilate in virtue of the same magical password (his being ‘Son of Father’) ? I confess, while I write, that I am under the suggestion of this article of Couchou/Stahl about the Johannine tradition of a Jesus Son of Father parodied by Synoptics as ‘Bar-Abbas’.

                Note that, for Delafosse (Joseph Turmel), John 18:39-6 is an interpolation, as:

                Interpretation based on synoptics and adapted to the primitive version that, leaving the Jews outside the Praetorium, forced Pilate to go out every time he wanted to talk to them.

  13. Another mythicist who places the historical Paul and his genuine epistles just after the 70 CE, is Chris Albert Wells, in his book Sorting Out Paul: Caught Between Man and Legend (2015).

    1. • Wells, Chris Albert. Sorting Out Paul: Caught Between Man and Legend. Strategic Book Publishing. ISBN 978-1-68181-295-3.

      [§. A Revised Basis to Evaluate Paul] Accepting Marcion’s Hellenistic additions to Paul’s letters, our interpretation of Paul must necessarily abandon the tradition of seeing everything through Paul’s eyes.
      The conclusion we can form based on the Marcionite revisions is that after the middle of the second century there were no genuine Pauline letters. Marcion’s collection of Paul’s letters, introduced by Latin prologues, all came close to the canonical versions except Romans. This would indicate that the Marcionite additions to Paul were not deleted, and the letter to the Romans remains apart.
      Up to now, I have reached several preliminary standpoints. First of all, the Hellenistic theology and ethics were added to Paul’s genuine letters, offering a method for identifying many if not most of Marcion’s interpolations. Secondly, the interpolations account for the dual theology. Thirdly, excluding sacrosanct Romans from Paul’s portfolio sets the authenticity disputes in a new perspective and opens a window on second-century church history. Finally, Marcion alone does not account for all the interpolations in Paul’s letters.

      Cf. Bayet, Albert (1927). Les morales de l’évangile (in French). Rieder.

      Bayet asserts that Jesus Christ did not exist and the morality of the Gospels, are from two different series of precepts belonging to different social groups.

  14. Fascinating discussion. Mark Goodacre has been working for some time on gJohn’s dependence on the Synoptics. He recently posted (a citation to) this forthcoming article:

    “Parallel Traditions or Parallel Gospels? John’s Gospel as a Re-imagining of Mark” in Eve-Marie Becker, Helen Bond and Catrin Williams (eds.), John’s Transformation of Mark (London & New York: T & T Clark, 2021), 77-90 [http://markgoodacre.org/articles.htm]

    I am very curious to hear Goodacre’s thoughts on John 1:4-9.

    Joel Marcus (2018) has recently articulated the redactional reading:

    “The author [of gJohn] has copied only ten lines from the preexistent Logo Hymn before he is distracted by the necessity of putting John in his place. Having relayed the hymn’s assertion that divine life abode in the Logos and that this life was the light of humanity, the Evangelist comments, in a prose aside, that the Baptist* was not this light but only a witness to it. Jesus rather than John is the true light that enlightens every person coming into the wrold. The author seems to have inserted both this passage and verse 15 into a preexistent form of the Prologue, since the references to the Baptist break the poetic structure and flow of thought. And both of these passages seem designed to put John in his place, which is under Jesus.” (John the Baptist in History and Theology, p. 11)

    The “early source” here is the Logos material, with the John material constituting a dramatic elaboration of gMark, which begins immediately with the Baptist and the vox clamantis.

    *As pointed out, “Baptist” does NOT appear as an appellation in the text of gJohn.

  15. Another book that argues both for (1) Paul post-70 and (2) John as first gospel and (3) John as author of the original layer of Revelation is Le document 70 (a review by Alfaric here). Unfortunately, I have not found a copy of this important book praised by both mythicists (Couchoud, Alfaric, Las Vergnas) and historicists (Loisy, Guignebert): it is the only past worthy mythicist book still missing in my collection. I am willing to pay a high price for a scanned copy.

        1. Giuseppe, you of the great bibliography finds, I am going to try to obtain the R. Stahl “Le document 70” via interlibrary loan, and if successful would be glad to mail you a photocopy as gratitude for bringing this to attention. Just contact me privately email gdoudna (at) msn.com. Thanks.

  16. Well I’m reassessing this issue. I’m growing less confident that the Gospel of Mark, or any Gospel, was written in the first century. I’d really like to be able to conclude that GMark was written in the 70s CE, but I think some of the stuff brought up in this thread, along with other issues, makes that increasingly doubtful. So, I’m not sure. I’d say anywhere from 70 to 120ish is possible.

    1. In response to rgprice’s post, I offer this line of argumentation for dating a text similar to our canonical Luke between Justin Martyr (ca.160s) to Irenaeus (180s).

      One of Luke’s objectives in crafting his birth narrative was to correct or counter his source’s, Matthew’s, birth narrative. A second objective would seem to be related to the author’s extensive imitation, use of, and focused emphasis upon the Jewish scriptures (structure, content, style, and language, via the Septuagint), and such extensive dependence upon the Septuagint within the Lukan birth narrative needs an explanation. While Joseph Tyson, in his Marcion and Luke-Acts: A Defining Struggle, does not consider the possibility that Luke used Matthew’s birth narrative as his source for his own, he has offered what seems to be a reasonable polemical context to which Luke’s septuagintalizing birth-narrative would be a fitting response or counter-narrative to views already in circulation: the birth narrative was added to an earlier version of Luke so as to counter Marcion’s views that Jesus had no relationship whatsoever to the Hebrew God and Jewish scriptures and that Jesus was not born of a woman.

      Early Christian critics of Marcion tell us that he understood that the Law is dead. Consistent with this view, he made a clear distinction between the God that Jesus advanced and the God of the Hebrew scriptures–as Tyson understands it, “between a God who enacted laws and judged humans in accordance with their obedience or disobedience of them and a God who justified sinners” (Marcion and Luke-Acts, 31). Because, according to Marcion (allegedly), the God of Jesus was totally unknown before Jesus’s sudden appearance in the “fifteenth year of Tiberius,” which is also the first verse of Marcion’s gospel, “Marcion concluded that there could be no connection between Jesus and the Hebrew Scriptures,” which also means that there was no connection between Jesus and the Hebrew prophets. In addition to separating Jesus from the Hebrew God, their prophets, and their scriptures, Tyson emphasizes that Marcion taught “that human procreation is vile and objectionable,” and that “sexual acts and birth are regarded as contemptible and to be avoided” (34–35). Thus, Marcion’s Jesus was not born, would not have been subjected to such a vile and contemptible act such as birth, but just appeared as a man “in the fifteenth year of Tiberius.” Marcion’s teaching was well received, for, as Clabeaux notes, “[s]cholars conjecture that in numbers alone the Marcionites may have nearly surpassed non-Marcionites in the decades of the 160s and 170s” (“Marcion” ABD, 4.515).

      Considering the contents of the Lukan birth narrative, one can see how its author could have crafted this narrative as a response to these (alleged) Marcionite views. It is widely acknowledged that the overall structure, style, and language of the birth narrative is dependent upon the Septuagint, especially 1 Samuel (1 Kgs LXX). Tyson observes “The Septuagintal style has influenced the writing throughout Luke and Acts, but it is most prominent in the first two chapters” and he cites Cadbury and Fitzmyer to support his point before suggesting, “It is worthwhile to note that the Septuagintal language and tone of Luke 1:5–2:52 would be subtle but effective antidotes to Marcionite claims about the separation of Jesus from Hebrew prophecy and would serve to provide links between the reader and the Hebrew Scriptures” (97).

      The birth narrative begins with an introduction to John the Baptist’s parents, who “blamelessly obeyed all the covenants and ordinances” of the Law. Zechariah was a Jewish priest and serving in an honorable position in the temple cult. The angel Gabriel appeared to Zechariah during his temple service and informed him that his son will “bring back many Israelites to the Lord their God and that he will be a forerunner in the “power of Elijah” (1:11–20). Gabriel is one of only two angels named in the Hebrew Bible and one of the four archangels who, as such, guards the very throne of the Hebrew God (See Dan 10:13, 21; 12:1, and 1 Enoch 9:1; 40). The author of Luke could not have chosen a more Hebrew messenger to announce John’s birth.

      Next, this same Gabriel appears to Mary to inform her of her impending pregnancy. In his announcement to Mary, Gabriel informs her that her son “will be called the Son of the Most High, that the Lord God will give him the throne of his ancestor David, and he will be king over the house of Jacob forever” (1:32–33). Luke’s diction here is noteworthy. “Most High” and “Lord God” occur as references to the God of Israel hundreds of times in Jewish canonical and non-canonical literature and only very rarely outside of Jewish literature. And the reference to “David” and the “house of Jacob” accentuate the Jewish emphasis. Concerning Gabriel’s announcement to Mary, Tyson notes,
      The language that the angel Gabriel uses in addressing Mary in Luke 1:31 seems to have been
      selected specifically to offend the Marcionites–Mary is to conceive in her womb and produce a
      son (καὶ ἰδοὺ συλλήμψῃ ἐν γαοτρὶ [sic] καὶ τέξῃ υἱὸν καῖ καλέσεις τὸ ὅνομα αὐτοῦ Ἰησοῦν, Luke
      1:31). Anatomical references are also stressed in the meeting between Elizabeth and Mary
      (Luke 1:39–45), when the child of Elizabeth leaps in her womb (Luke 1:41, 44). Throughout
      the infancy narratives Jesus is referred to as a baby (βρέφος, Luke 2:12, 16) or a child
      (παιδίον, Luke 2:17, 27, 40; παῖς, Luke 2:43; τέκνον, Luke 2:48). . . . The language
      throughout Luke 1:5–2:52 emphasizes the humanity of Jesus, his proximity to his family, and
      his similarities with John. (99)
      Tyson does not mention this, but that much of the language he cites here is directly from the Septuagint could also be understood as an additional stinger aimed at the Marcionites.

      Luke then has Mary visit Elizabeth, who is pregnant with John the Baptist, from which we learn that Jesus is physically related to this soon-to-be Nazarite (information that would have been astounding news to the authors of Mark and Matthew), but Luke is attempting here to depict Jesus’s Jewishness by aligning him with his very Jewish portrayal of John the Baptist. In Mary’s “Magnificat,” she sings that the God of the Hebrews has looked upon her with favor (1:48) and that he has “helped his servant Israel as he promised to our forefathers” (1:54–55), another connection between Jesus, the God of Israel, and Jewish ancestors. In Zechariah’s Benedictus, he extols the Lord God of Israel, who sent a deliverer from the house of David as stated by the prophet, while recalling the covenant sworn to Abraham (1:67–73). These are surely explicit and intentional allusions to key themes of the Hebrew religion from the Jewish scriptures (via the Septuagint). That Jesus was born of a woman and swaddled and that the birth was witnessed by shepherds could be a direct counter to Marcion’s (alleged) views of the vileness of the birth process and that Jesus was only a spiritual being. It is also noteworthy that only Luke among our gospel authors has Jesus (and John the Baptist) circumcised–who has his parents obediently follow what is the foremost commandment of the Abrahamic covenant:

      God said to Abraham, ‘For your part, you must keep my covenant, you and your descendants
      after you, generation by generation. This is how you are to keep this covenant between myself
      and you and your descendants after you: circumcise yourselves, every male among you. You
      must circumcise the flesh of your foreskin, and it will be the sign of the covenant between
      us.’(Gen 17:9–11)

      Simeon then conjoins the Hebrew God to Jesus, who is “a light that will bring revelation to the Gentiles and glory to your people Israel” (2:32); Anna the prophetess then extolled Jesus to “all who were looking for the liberation of Jerusalem” (2:38); Joseph and Mary “completed everything required of them by the Law” before they returned to Nazareth, and, finally, when Jesus was twelve, his parents traveled to Jerusalem for the Passover and he remained in Jerusalem and, upon their return, they found him “sitting in the temple surrounded by the teachers, listening to them and putting questions, and all who heard him were amazed at his intelligence and the answer he gave” (2:46–47).

      There are polemical and compositional reasons why the author of Luke 1–2 emphatically emphasized the Jewishness of Jesus via a septuagentalizing organizational structure, style, and language. A reasonable explanation for this material is that Luke crafted a response to a competing group of early followers of Jesus, recognized as Marcion or his followers.

      If this line of argumentation has merit, then our canonical Luke cannot be dated any earlier than Marcion’s activities or the influence or popularity of Marcion’s teaching after his death.

      We do not know much for certain about the life or exact dating of Marcion’s activities. BeDuhn suggests that his life spanned ca. 95–165 CE (The First New Testament, 12-13); he was possibly excommunicated from the Roman church in the mid-140s; Justin Martyr writes in his 1 Apology that Marcion is “teaching even now” (ὂς καὶ νῦν ἔτι ἐστὶ διδάσκων §26), which is tentatively dated to 155–157. It is safe to say that he was probably actively advancing his understanding of Jesus between 120–160 CE. This date comports well with what we think we know about the text of Luke in the second century. Concerning the use of Luke among these so-called Apostolic Fathers (the dating of which is very uncertain), Arthur Bellinzoni finds no use of Luke in 1 Clement, Didache, Ignatius, Polycarp (at most one possible example), not one in the Epistle of Barnabas or the Shepherd of Hermas, and only “harmonized material from Matthew and Luke” in 2 Clement, which he dates 120–160 (“Luke in the Apostolic Fathers,” In Trajectories through the New Testament and the Apostolic Fathers. Andrew Gregory and Christopher Tuckett, eds. New York: Oxford UP, 2005, 66). It is not until the middle of the second century, with Justin Martyr, that we begin to see some narrative material that is also in our canonical Luke, though, as is widely recognized, Justin never refers to his source as “Luke” or any other canonical title, and this Lukan material in Justin Martyr is often intertwined or harmonized with material from our canonical Matthew. It is not until Irenaeus (ca.180) that we see clearer evidence of the circulation of a text more closely related to our canonical Luke and actually referred to as “Luke” (Arthur Bellizoni, “The Gospel of Luke in the Second Century C.E.” In Literary Studies in Luke-Acts: Essays in Honor of Joseph B. Tyson. Richard P. Thompson and Thomas E. Phillips, eds. Macon, GA: Mercer UP, 1998, 59–76).

      We have no reliable evidence, it seems, that would date our canonical Luke any earlier than the mid (post Justin)-to late (Irenaeus or beyond)-second century, which seems to fit nicely with the popularity of Marcion’s movement. [Apologies for the length of this post.]

      Brad McAdon

      1. What stumps me is the apparent use of a gospel harmony by Justin. Justin appears to know Luke’s birth narrative with his mentions of Jesus’ circumcision and reference to a manger. Does not this necessarily presuppose the existence of what was later known as our canonical Luke?

        1. Yes, Justin does include some narrative material very much like material in our canonical Luke. But, as I noted earlier, he also includes material that creates problems thinking that he knows our canonical Luke–like the claim that Mary was from Davidic descent. Could Justin have known canonical Luke’s (and Matthew’s) genealogy(ies) and still claim Mary’s Davidic lineage? Another is that Jesus was born in a cave. So, while I can agree that Justin certainly knows narrative material that is also in our canonical Luke, I think it goes too far to say something like, “because Justin knows of some material that is also in our canonical Luke, we must necessarily presuppose the existence of what was later known as our canonical Luke”.

          1. My problem is the origin of that material that overlaps with canonical Luke. What is the origin of that material? A “simple” explanation is that canonical Luke is shaping his narrative from the models of birth announcements to the patriarchs in Genesis and Judges — as a double whammy against Marcion (human birth plus OT framework).

            Given that much (not all) of the material in Justin that overlaps with canonical Luke also overlaps the Infancy Gospel of James, are we to think that canonical Luke drew upon that Infancy Gospel — that the Protevangelium preceded canonical Luke (and that the Protevangelium was also anti-Marcionite)?

            I used to wonder if our version of Luke was known to Justin but that its status was nothing more than one of many gospels at the time, with nothing to set it apart or above any of the other variant narratives. Justin had no compulsion to consider any of them “canonical” and more worthy than any of the others. But that position leads to other problematic questions.

            It seems to be the simplest explanation that our author of canonical Luke created that material from his creative use of the Septuagint (along with influences from Matthew) and to oppose Marcionism and that it was perhaps one of several serving that purpose (e.g. the Protevangelium, too). (Is Justin a fiction whose apparent mid second century date is also a fiction?)

            But at this stage — not having delved into the question seriously for some years — is that my head is going around in circles with the question and various answers.

  17. I realize what follows may be radical, but it is a probe or conjecture I have been considering: is Marcion to be identified with Papias’s Mark, who Papias said wrote the teachings of Simon Peter?

    Let me make the positive argument. First (separate argument, not argued here) date the death of Simon Peter 71 ce (= execution of Simon bar Giora in Rome). Second, assume the written teachings of Peter by Mark, according to Papias, is an UrMark, not canonical GMk. Third, assume Papias’s Mark is identified with the (legendary) figure John Mark, companion of Barnabas and Paul in the book of Acts, in which there are curious associated-with-Paul then repudiation-of-Paul themes around the same figure John Mark, that is, Mark as both Paulinist and anti-Paulinist in the same text. (And fourth, assume argument, not argued here, that activity of Paul in his Christian phase, and letters of Paul, ca. 70-100.) From these date context suggestions and assumptions, hypothesize ca. 50 or 55 ce birth of Mark.

    Now to turn to the dating of Marcion, and argument for dating Marcion a little earlier than commonly supposed. First, Justin Martyr in 150s Rome thinks Marcion is alive and active in his day but (a) Marcion is not in Rome at the time of Justin’s writing, and (b) Justin’s language is consistent with Justin simply being unaware of any report that Marcion somewhere else in the world had died, in the midst of a flourishing Marcionism. Thus it is ambiguous, as opposed to certain, that Marcion was alive in the 150s, based on the statement of Justin.

    Second, an article of Sebastian Moll, “Three Against Tertullian: the Second Tradition about Marcion’s Life” (JTS 59 [2008]: 169-180, proposes to deconstruct the stories and traditions concerning Marcion. From arguments in that article and otherwise, reconstruct Marcion not as having come to Rome for a confrontation already being a heretic, but as having been in the Roman church long-term not a heretic, before a split and expulsion “in the time of Hyginus” (a bishop of Rome). From Sebastian Moll:

    “Jurgen Regul has proposed that there are two different traditions about Marcion’s life, a theory which has had a great impact on Marcionite scholarship and has served as a guideline for the evaluation of the sources. According to Regul, these two lines of tradition differ above all about the question of Marcion’s pre-Roman activity: Tertullian [207 ce], who represents the first line, does not mention anything about Marcion’s life before Rome and pictures him as being a member of the Roman church for some time. The second tradition is represented by Pseudo-Tertullian, Epiphanius, and Philastrius, who tell us that Marcion was already excommunicated before he came to Rome (…) [H]ow is it that Tertullian, who is without a doubt our most important source on Marcion…is unaware of all the features which his colleagues provide? (…) It seems that these features [of the second tradition] have prevailed due to their power of discrediting Marcion … our analysis has brought forward several reasons to doubt the credibility of the [non-Tertullian second] tradition in general: (1) As there is no reason to assume that any of the works belonging to the second tradition go back to Hippolytus, the pieces of information they offer must be regarded as of a later period than Tertullian’s. (2) Many of the elements reported about Marcion in the second tradition are–unlike Tertullian’s–well suited to discredit Marcion. (3) All the earlier sources (Justin, Irenaeus, and Tertullian) seem to know of Marcion only after he arrived in Rome. It is much easier to imagine that later writers invented a negative background story for Marcion than to assume that all the earlier writers were ignorant of it.” (Moll, “Three Against Tertullian”, 169-170, 176-177)

    Third, the confrontation in Rome of Marcion in the time of Hyginus, arguably the most secure tradition of a date for Marcion, is always dated 138-142 ce on the basis of that being the date of Hyginus as bishop of Rome. However, the dates of the bishops of Rome are later reconstructions and not as secure as they seem. Peter Kirby argues that, especially in the first half of the second century, those early Roman bishop dates need to be moved somewhat earlier, with Kirby suggesting ca. 10 yrs but the data would not be incompatible with ca. 20 years earlier. This is an involved debate but the point is the early-second-century ce names in the “early popes lists” with dates are products of later historiography and not secure in terms of contemporary date linkages. Kirby:

    “The author [of Hegesippus] was in Rome when Anicetus was its bishop. Traditional chronology for the bishops of Rome has faithfully followed the statements presented by Eusebius of Caesarea and chronographers before him, Hippolytus of Rome and Julius Africanus. There has even been a tendency to attribute a list of bishops of Rome, falsely, to the text of Hegesippus. This cannot be sustained. The chronology is doubtless correct starting from some point in the second half of the second century, but it is nebulous data for the first half of the second century. The contemporary of Anicetus as bishop of Rome wrote no later than 148 AD, so Anicetus must be understood as taking the bishopric of Rome a full ten years earlier than usually believed. This likewise pushes backward the chronology of Pius and his predecessors, but this is just as well, as there needs to be room when fictitious persons such as ‘Sextus’ are removed from the list.” (Kirby at http://peterkirby.com/chasing-hegesippus.html).

    Therefore conjecture the date of Marcion’s confrontation and the split in the church at Rome in the time of Hyginus at ca. 120-130 ce, prior to which Marcion was active in Rome and in good standing at Rome. Following the split in Rome of conjectured date ca. 120s, assume Marcion leaves Rome for whereabouts uncertain. Assume that Marcion prior to the split and departure from Rome had long-term standing as a Christian leader in Rome up until that point.

    Clement of Alexandria (early 3rd ce), wrote of heretics claiming an earlier dating of Marcion than orthodox Christian historians had for Marcion. (Orthodox christian historians sought to have orthodoxy earlier and prior to heresy in date sequence, a golden age before satan’s corruption sequence). The heretics claimed (said Clement); “Valentinus was a hearer of Theudas. And he was the pupil of Paul. For Marcion, who arose in the same age with them, lived as an old man with the younger [heretics].”

    Who was this Christian figure Marcion in good standing in the church at Rome until the 120s ce said by his followers to have been older than any of the others, who first arose more or less contemporary with the first generation of apostles? Rome is where Papias situates Mark’s association with Peter, though there are traditions of Mark being in Asia Minor and associated with the travels of Paul and Barnabas as well. But there are traditions of Marcion related to Johannine Christianity of Asia Minor too. Could it be Mark = Marcion?

    The names: Marcion is the same name as Mark with a diminutive ending added, “little Mark”. Term of affection? Insult? Double-entendre? Unknown–but they are variants of the same name.

    Marcion is a Paulinist, associated with an early collection of Paul’s letters, and with an “abbreviated” read earlier version of GLk which sounds suspiciously like some form of UrMark when the specifics of Marcion’s Gospel are examined.

    The relationship between GMk (if and to the extent that reflects UrMark) and the letters of Paul have been explored elsewhere, with some scholars such as of the Paul Tarazi school, and Thomas Nelligan, The Quest for Mark’s Sources: An Exploration of the Case for Mark’s Use of First Corinthians (2015), arguing that GMk stories were generated and written developed from letters of Paul as sources.

    The argument from common sense: Marcionism by all accounts was a major phenomenon. Marcionites are known as Marcionites or heretics only anachronistically, by later retrojections of history written by winners; at the time, Marcionites themselves understood themselves and were understood by the nonChristian world to be “Christians”. The NT canon as it now exists, per Trobisch and other work, becomes a phenomenon of the 2nd half of 2nd ce and, especially in Luke-Acts, seems to both argue against Marcionism but also to incorporate or assimilate variant forms of christianity. In this manner a “good” Mark in the first generation of Christians can be distinguished from a “bad” Mark (Marcion), in retrospective history-telling and later christian self-understanding.

    OK that is my gist of a case for consideration that Mark = Marcion, or rather that these two legendary figures, each known only indirectly as told by others in tradition, each prominent in Rome, compatible in date in lifespan, each foundational figures in Christian origins, of the same name, come from an original identity.

    I see an earlier Vridar post of Neil arguing for an earlier dating of Marcion, to b. 70 instead of conventional b. 85 ce (but not as early as b. 50 or 55 suggested above), as well as discussing considerable further background to Marcion issues: https://vridar.org/2008/01/05/tradition-and-invention-genealogy-of-right-teaching-early-date-for-marcion/.

    And there is this on Stephan Huller’s blog from 2011: “Marcion was a Heretic Invented in the Third Century to Gloss Over the Controversies Associated with St. Mark in Second Century Palestine” https://stephanhuller.blogspot.com/2011/08/marcion-was-heretic-invented-in-third.html.

    1. Note that, according to Adamczewski, Bar-Abbas is a polemical allusion to Acts’s Barnabas, while according to Stahl/Couchoud, Bar-Abbas is a polemical allusion to the marcionite “Jesus Son of Father”. Merging the two views, we would have: Mark-ion == Mark Ιων = Mark Ιωανης = Mark John.

      I don’t know if I am correct about the derivation of Ιωανης from Ιων, but according to Raschke, “John the Baptist” allegorizes a Gentile Christian figure insofar Ιωανης is an allusion to Ιωνα, the region called Ionia where there is Ephesus.

    2. Gregory Doudna wrote

      The relationship between GMk (if and to the extent that reflects UrMark) and the letters of Paul have been explored elsewhere, with some scholars such as of the Paul Tarazi school, and Thomas Nelligan, The Quest for Mark’s Sources: An Exploration of the Case for Mark’s Use of First Corinthians (2015), arguing that GMk stories were generated and written developed from [the] letters of Paul as sources.

      Certainly Tom Dykstra has also argued GMk was generated and developed from the Pauline letters:

      Mark, Canonizer of Paul, 2012, Ocabs Press, St Paul, Minnesota 55124

      and rg price argues in Deciphering the Gospels that the character of Jesus in the Gospel of Mark is based on Paul and the teachings of Jesus are actually Paul’s teachings, copied from the letters of Paul. See 1.2. here http://www.rationalrevolution.net/articles/deciphering_the_gospels.htm

      1. Here is my thinking on that question Neil. First, that Papias’s Mark’s writing was an urMark and not canonical GMk I reason indirectly as follows: I reason that all of the canonical gospels may be from the same general era instead of widely spaced apart, i.e. all four are the same genre and, in their own ways, versions of the “same” synoptic story; these are to me more likely to all be from the same era or generation. That just intrinsically seems most likely. That is to say, if any one of the canonical gospels is dated, that likely dates the generation of them all. The Passion Story of all four gospels is certainly little altered and the same basic story across all four. Brad McAdon has made good arguments above for canonical GLk postdating Justin (or in the era of Justin). If that is the era of GLk, by my reasoning that would likely be the era of all four of the canonical gospels, nor just one of them, with the four gospels regarded essentially as four variant versions of a common story. By that reasoning GMk logically would be ca. the generation of Justin as well, postdating Papias. This means Papias’s text of Mark necessarily must be an UrMark.

        Second, and compatible with the first point, canonical GMk by my thinking has legends of 1st ce figures become legendary in worlds of texts, major known figures-become-legendary from the era of the First Revolt rather than the 30s ce. Both the mistakenly earlier chronological dating context in which these figures are situated in the Gospels, and the degree of legendization of the figures and stories, call for a significant distance in time to have passed–texts two or three generations removed from the originating contexts which I believe is the era of the First Revolt. A first generation following the First Revolt would be too early for the canonical Gospels by this analysis, and this also argues that Papias’s Mark was an UrMark not canonical GMk, which will have been produced later.

        The third factor is my sense that Papias’s Mark may actually have been in the company of Simon bar Giora (= Simon Peter) and written what he said Simon said in Rome, as Papias was told by his sources concerning Mark. If so, I reason this would require UrMark to reflect little legendary material or development, and to have few if any major chronological time setting errors (which is not the case with all of the canonical Gospels).

        Yet at the same time based on the name, the presupposition would be that there is some direct connection between the hypothesized earlier UrMark known to Papias, and the later canonical GMk of the era of the four gospels. In other words, UrMark, if we had that text, should be recognizable in canonical GMk, as a source or base text which had been rewritten or augmented. That may not be certain–the text of Papias’s Mark conceivably could have no relation to canonical GMk, but for working purposes I am assuming an organic connection in terms of source expansion or augmentation, to get from UrMark to canonical GMk.

        With that spadework in place, a suggestion as to a possible identity of a known text corresponding in content and genre to the reconstructed description of a hypothesized UrMark: the Gospel of Thomas.

        This suggestion draws on arguments published by Stevan Davies that the Gospel of Thomas was a source for canonical Gospel of Mark. On hearing this many people react as if that is off the wall, but I have read both of Davies’ two major journal articles of 1996 and 1997 in Neotestamentica making this argument and the case looks intriguing to me. By good fortune both of those journal articles are accessible online: “Mark’s Use of the Gospel of Thomas”, http://users.misericordia.edu/davies/thomas/tomark1.htm, and (with Kevin Johnson), “Mark’s Use of the Gospel of Thomas Part 2”, http://users.misericordia.edu/davies/thomas/tomark2.htm. Here is Davies from the first article:

        “One of the most interesting facets of the study of the Gospel of Thomas, the Coptic manuscript that has made such an impact on Biblical studies at the end of the present century, is that so many sayings in the canonical Gospel of Mark are also found in Thomas. In the chapters on Jesus’ public ministry (Mark 1:1-8:22 and 11:1-12:44), thirty-five separate sayings may be counted that are neither Markan redaction nor occasional comments by Jesus in the course of stories about his miracles. Of those 36, no fewer than 21 can also be found in Thomas in one form or another (…) The theory that Thomas drew sayings from Mark does not seem tenable (…) As knowledge of their sources leads to clearer understanding of Matthew and Luke through knowledge of their redaction of those sources, so knowledge of Mark may increase considerably if it is recognized that we may have at hand a late written version of one of the texts he used, one we call the Gospel of Thomas.”

        From the second article by Davies and Johnson:

        “Mark’s use of the Gospel of Thomas could be inferred from the sheer amount of Thomasine material in the Second Gospel, Mark’s consistency in utilizing that material, and most importantly the likelihood that certain sayings in Mark were derived from the Gospel of Thomas itself and not from some other source, e.g. oral tradition. (…) The principal purpose of the present essay is to show that the thesis that Mark drew upon Thomas is consistent and that when one subtracts what appears to be Markan redaction, in many cases one is left with Thomasine material (…) In conclusion, allow me to review just a few basic facts about the Gospel of Thomas. First, because of its formal qualities, a barely organized list of sayings, it is presumptively more primitive than any other known compilation of Jesus material. Second, very many of the paralleled sayings in Thomas have been less redactionally altered than their counterparts in canonical material, and this includes Q material (…) Third, the fragments of Thomas found at Oxyrhynchus are from an earlier date than are manuscript fragments from most other New Testament writings. These facts do not prove that Thomas existed prior to or at least at the time of Mark, but it should give rise to the presumption that it did. If Mark did not invent the sayings discussed in these two articles in Neotestamentica from his own imagination, and no one argues that he did, then he took them from some earlier source. (…) Thomas’ strength [in explanation of proposed source theories for sayings of Jesus in GMk] is its actual existence. From it we can see what Mark used and how Mark used it.”

        Separately (that is, independently of Davies) other studies have made a credible case that the attribution to the apostle Thomas in the text’s title and Prologue is secondary, a late added feature to the tex perhaps related to the geographical accident of where that text became used, in “St. Thomas” lands. Davies acknowledges that the Gospel of Thomas in its presently known texts reflects accretions. The basic idea would be that underlying the canonical GMk is a pre-Thomas-labeled form of the Gospel of Thomas.

        The Gospel of Thomas approximates what an UrMark would be like along lines I reasoned: sayings (some barely comprehensible); no mistaken chronological dating to the 30s CE; little legendary development; recognizeable source expanded into the canonical Gospel of Mark.

        1. Thanks, Greg. My questions are related to the idea of some identification between the author of Mark and Marcion — or have I misinterpreted you?

          What links do you imagine, if any, between the urMark you describe and Marcion’s presumed gospel, some from of urLuke?

          I suspect you would make Marcion’s gospel a later development of the urMark since Marcion’s gospel supposedly begins with the chronological marker of the reign of Tiberius.

          Our canonical Mark does present the twelve disciples in a poor light and that would fit a Marcionite mindset. One might imagine an urMark addressing sayings to uncomprehending disciples as some of the gnostic gospels (inc Thomas) appear to do in places. But against that, and this is my biggest stumblingblock, is that canonical Mark is woven throughout with allusions to the OT. Beginning with John the Baptist it is a smack in the eye of Marcionism. It is not as if some OT themes have been added on to “neutral” core. The entire gospel’s warp and woof is OT scripture.

          So we can assume Marcion was “pro-orthodox” for a while in Rome and later jettisoned his OT flavoured gospel for something that a Lukan redactor took up and turned into canonical Luke, yes? But I feel like I’m wading out beyond my depth.


        2. If the four gospels come from ca. time of Justin in line with for reasons brought out by Brad McAdon, and are of a common era or generation, Marcion’s gospel would be of this same context or era as well, since it is so closely similar to the canonical ones. But this literary activity of these known variants of the Gospels would be after the historical Mark/Marcion was dead. Mark/Marcion, in this light, did not publish canonical GMk or the Gospel of the Marcionites either–those were published in his name posthumously. People have no problem with questioning actual final authorship of the canonical Gospels by the figures in their titles, but assume by contrast that heretics always actually wrote the texts attributed to them! Such as assuming the Marcionite Gospel really was written by Marcion; Simonian gnostic texts really were written by Simon, and so on. In many cases these are texts written by later disciples or followers understanding themselves to be in continuity with their foundation-story figures, and the same may apply to the Marcionites and their writings attacked by the heresiologists.

          The hypothesis would be that the text referred to by Papias as produced by the historical Mark/Marcion was UrMark, earlier in date than, and a source for, the later very different, expanded and transformed essentially contemporary productions of GMk, GMarcion, and GLk (variants of each other). I do not know however if the <G”Th”> = UrMark idea is adequate; Papias seems to allude to Mark’s writing containing deeds as well as sayings, whereas GTh has only sayings. The use of the OT to explain and foretell Christ is so basic in Paul, Revelation, and early Christian writers that if it is true that later Marcionites rejected that, instinctively that sounds like it would be a post-Mark/Marcion development of Marcionites. But I too feel in too deep water until doing more research.

  18. This post and its comments is a bit of a treasure trove – nice to see people can discuss such a topic for so long and stay civil!
    I note theories about John the Baptist in Mark being derived from Josephus may not be so strong if indeed the Josephus passage is a later interpolation. I think there is a strong mythical core to many of the Johns in the new testament – John the Baptist, John of Patmos and John/James sons of Zebedee, then of course John of the Mandeans.
    I am inclined to think John comes from the Essenes, but it takes a lot of hand-waving to link him to the Teacher of Righteousness given the latter is not named. The fact that the dead sea scrolls has no Christian DNA in it is one of those troubling silences that along with Josephus’s silence makes me strongly doubt the association of an early Church with Jerusalem. Galatians might be right about Damascus, but why then later put the apostles in Jerusalem? Surely a cause for suspicion?

    No point getting bogged down by all the Johns here, they cannot be untangled!

    A later date for Mark brings Papias into play. It seems strange he has not been mentioned much here. Surely he should be considered as a source for Justin Martyr’s ‘Memories of the Apostles’.
    We should also take very seriously the proposition that Marcion’s gospel is indeed Mark – no need to chop and change it, Mark is tightly structured so an earlier version could not be much different. If Mark does not fit Marcion’s theology, then neither does Paul’s epistles. Everything said about Marcion’s theology is probably hyperbole. Marcion may have freed the early Church of the yoke of the law, but for that he was called a heretic even though the Church took on his theology fairly much word for word (well except for maybe a few fudges to cover their tracks). From then on, Marcion’s theology was caricatured into something completely different – dualism, docetism, rejecting the Old Testament etc. Paul talks of the ‘god of this age’ – the Church has no problem identifying this with Satan – dualism is just a matter of perspective! Perhaps a few rough edges removed?

    Mark as Marcion’s gospel is a neat hypothesis that only requires we reject some of the more excessive accusations against Marcion. We then solve the mystery of why this gospel disappeared from the face of the earth – it didn’t, it was hiding in plain site. We have no inconsistency with the Church appropriating Marcion’s other canon books, but rejecting the gospel – they didn’t, they appropriated the lot!

    The only problem I have left is Justin Martyr quoting ‘Mark’ when he won’t touch Paul?

    The solution to this is hiding in a secret basement in the Vatican – the works of Papias waiting to be rediscovered – or at least in an alternative Dan Brown universe!

    Was Papias also the source for the narrative of Mark? Mark could still hold older material (ie spittle story) but be written much later. What is the bet that in the Papias version, many of the miracles were actually performed by the apostles instead? A good reason for Eusebius to store it on the mantel-piece above the fire!

    OK – I think I used all my suppositions allowance.

    1. There is no need to be hung up over Justin supposedly knowing the Gospel of Mark — see http://archive.org/details/supernaturalreli01cass

      And Papias is in reality for us a fourth century source — via Eusebius — and we know nothing of his genre, provenance, audience, etc etc

      Yeh — I’m still looking for an ad hom free venue to discuss these issues. I’ve learned so far that any forum with either Jim West or Peter Kirby will not allow for such a place.

        1. No. It is evident that there was a work under the name of Papias. What has stuck in my mind for some time is the following footnote in a chapter by Luise Abramowski, p331f:

          With regard to the recurrent inclination to pass off Papias’s remarks about the first two Synoptists as “ancient information” and to utilize them in some fashion or other, a somewhat more general observation may not be out of place. The history of classical literature has gradually learned to work with the notions of the literary-historical legend, novella, or fabrication; after untold attempts at establishing the factuality of statements made it has discovered that only in special cases does there exist a tradition about a given literary production independent of the self-witness of the literary production itself; and that the person who utilizes a literary-historical tradition must always first demonstrate its character as a historical document. General grounds of probability cannot take the place of this demonstration. It is no different with Christian authors. In his literary history Eusebius has taken reasonable pains; as he says in the preface he had no other material at his disposal than the self-witness of the books at hand. Not once was he able to say anything about the external history of the works of Origen, in which he was genuinely interested, apart from what he found in or among them. And if in the case of authors who as individuals and sometimes as well-known personalities stood in the glare of publicity there is so little information about their production, how much more is this not the situation in the case of the Gospels, whose authors intentionally or unintentionally adhered to the obscurity of the Church, since they neither would nor could be anything other than preachers of the one message, a message that was independent of their humanity? There is not even the shadow of a hope that there ever existed any trustworthy information about the way in which the Gospels came into being: the Christians of antiquity had other cares than to search out and preserve the history of the inscripturation of the Gospels, and when Gnosticism forced this concern upon them they filled the vacuum with inventions of their own as Gnosticism did before them.

          Abramowski, Luise. “The ‘Memoirs of the Apostles’ in Justin.” In The Gospel and the Gospels, edited by Peter Stuhlmacher, 323–35. Grand Rapids, Mich: W.B. Eerdmans, 1991.

          Some of what has come down to us “from Papias” is surely more “novelistic” than “historical” — think of the fate of Judas.

          1. On further thought, I realise Hegesippus may fit the bill for Justin Martyr’s source better given the title ‘Memoranda’. Hegesippus == Luke is another suspicion I have (but I won’t go there)

            Of course I put no value on Papias’ Expositions being a useful historical source, but a useful snapshot of folk legends at the crucial point at which Christianity seems to be coming into being – assuming the traditional dating. The fact that Eusebius is uncomfortable with it, and the fact the Church failed to preserve it makes me even more curious! (the same with Hegesippus).

            There is a claim about Papias’ work being seen in the Middle Ages, but the footnote goes to a German book.


            If it did survive after Eusebius then there is a small hope it may turn up in some vault in the Vatican. I am sure its rediscovery would change everything and nothing!

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