“The war of 70 is not a major issue” in the Gospels?

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by Neil Godfrey

Not too long ago I posted my thoughts on the gospel narratives placing the public ministry and death of Jesus in a round 40 years prior to the fall of Jerusalem in 70 CE. Maybe I was trying to convince myself because the thing that has bugged me is the absence of any early recognition of this setting.

Surely a catastrophe as momentous as the destruction of Jerusalem and its Temple in 70 CE had to be linked in the minds of the authors of the first gospels with the crucifixion of Jesus. Is that not what the “Olivet Prophecy” of Jesus (Matthew 24, Mark 13, Luke 21) was all, or in large part, about?

I have further suspected that the destruction of the temple and the mass crucifixions of the same period so chaotically upended Jewish life and beliefs that a new Jewish narrative emerged to help make sense of those events and that that narrative is what we read in the gospels.

Of course, if such a “new Judaism” did emerge and eventually morphed into “Christianity”, the first question that naturally comes to mind is: What of the letters of Paul? Other questions that arise from passages in Josephus, Tacitus and Suetonius have been covered many times and the various arguments relating to them cover well-worn tracks. One common factor running through Paul’s writings and relevant passages in Josephus and Tacitus and that makes any assessment of their origins and functions problematic is that they appear to exist in isolated islands without any acknowledgement of their existence by outsiders until a good century or more after their presumed creation.

Some of the tell-tale signs that Justin was not using the gospels for his sources: he speaks of Jesus being born “near”, not in, Bethlehem; Jesus’ Davidic descent is through Mary; no genealogy of Jesus; Jesus “sweat blood” before, not after, asking to be released from the coming torment; John the Baptist was sitting by Jordan; the Jordan was engulfed in flame or fiery light when Jesus entered it; Justin has no awareness of a Judas or betrayal narrative; the point of the eucharist was to remember that Jesus came in the flesh; Jesus sends out the twelve from Jerusalem to preach to the world from the day of his resurrection…

But the same is true of the four canonical gospels. There is little hint that anyone knew about them at least until the time Justin Martyr was writing (140-160) and I personally think a reasonable case can be made that even Justin’s apparent references to gospel episodes were derived from a pre-gospel source (or more than one).

Problem: the further away from 70 CE we get before the gospels were written, the harder it is to think that the events of 70 CE were as critical as I have long supposed them to be.

An idiot, or one who treated his audience as idiots, once said that absence of evidence is not evidence of absence, so we can’t assume that the first gospel was not written soon after 70 CE, but that goes without saying: we cannot justifiably rely upon mere (unsupported) assumptions at any time. But if there is no evidence to be found in the places we would most expect to see evidence, then questions do need to be answered.

Whilst in my moment of doubt Satan (who else?) led me to read a chapter that seemed to reassure me that a very late date for the gospels was not a completely lonely position to maintain. In “The Emphasis on Jesus’ Humanity in the Kerygma” Étienne Nodet lists three indicators that suggest a date far removed from 70 CE but it is the third one that I will quote here. All bolding is my own:

Another feature of the Gospels has puzzled many commentators: the war of 70 is not a major issue. In this respect, the evolution of Josephus himself is interesting. His first work was The War of the Jews, the original title being probably The Capture of Jerusalem; he gloomily states that “God now dwells in Italy” (J.W. 5:367). But some twenty years later, he hardly speaks of the war in his major work, The Antiquities of the Jews. He briefly states in Life § 422, summing up the war, that Titus has resolved the disturbances in Judah. In Ag. Ap. 1:33–36 he casually indicates that the priestly archives have been restored in Jerusalem, so that the priests may be fit to take part in divine worship.

In the Gospels, Jesus announces a ruin. In Lk 21:20–22, he sees an oncoming war, with Jerusalem surrounded by armies, but he explains that “all that Scripture says must be fulfilled” by allusion to Jer 25:15, who speaks of the destruction of Judah and the enslavement of the people “according to everything that is written in this book.” This may refer to the war of 70, but the main point is Biblical typology. In Mt 24:15–16 and Mk 13:14 he says, “When you see the appalling abomination set up in the holy place, then those in Judea must escape to the mountains.” This refers to Daniel’s prophecy, and behind it to the desecration of the Temple by Antiochus Epiphanes in 167 BCE, after which Mattathias and his sons “fled into the mountains” (1 Macc 2:28). Indeed, the expression “set up” suggests a cultic device. The event alluded to can be either Caligula’s tentative plan in 40 to set up his statue in the Temple, or Hadrian’s politics aiming to transform Jerusalem into a Greco-Roman city with a forum and a capitol, in 132, which triggered the rebellion of Bar Kokhba. The second circumstance is by far the most fitting one.30 On the contrary, the war in 70 corresponds poorly, because even if the Romans actually worshipped their standards in the holy enclosure (J.W. 6:316), this was after the Temple burnt, but not to impose anything to the Jews. Titus’ triumph shows that the Romans wanted to bring the Jewish cult to Rome. The Sibylline Oracles present a better picture of this war in a prophetic style (4:125–127):

A Roman governor will come from Syria. He will burn down the temple of Jerusalem, and while doing so he will kill many people and destroy the great land of the Jews with its wide roads.

30 As is shown by the detailed study in Hermann Detering, “The Synoptic Apocalypse (Mk 13 par): A Document from the Time of Bar Kokhba,” JHC 7 (2000): 161–210. He notes that Mk seems to depend on Mt and not the reverse.

The entire article by Nodet is worth reading for its larger argument that the earliest theology about Jesus stressed his heavenly origin and spiritual nature and that the heavy focus on his humanity was a later development.

So many questions; so much yet to know.

Nodet, Etienne. “The Emphasis on Jesus’ Humanity in the Kerygma.” In : James H. Charlesworth, Jesus Research : New Methodologies and Perceptions (Princeton-Prague Symposium 2007), Eerdmans, 2014, pp. 753–68, https://www.academia.edu/6864927/The_Emphasis_on_Jesus_Humanity_in_the_Kerygma

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133 thoughts on ““The war of 70 is not a major issue” in the Gospels?”

  1. Is Nodet a Christian? Only a Christian can write such things (I refer to what he says about the Slavonic Testimonium and the TF and in particular about the way he uses Photius).
    What is too much Christian in the slavonic TF is the innocence of Jesus despite of the seditious action of all the people around him: (1) his followers want to use him against the Romans, (2) the scribes and pharisees are victim of envy sgainst him, and (3) Pilate is interested to 30 moneys. Among them, the only person to be faithful to the imperial (yes: imperial) law is only Jesus. Too much divine provvidence here. Nodet should feel embarrassment for what he has written.

    1. You have not addressed anything about the content of the post or the parts of Nodet’s work that I was discussing.

      I rarely find myself in total agreement with an author but that does not normally mean I dismiss all their work without further ado. As for the TF, yes, I think Nodet’s position is surely “courageous”, but he does present a rational case for it and not a faith-based argument as you infer. But that is entirely beside the point, having nothing to do with Nodet’s point discussed in this post.

      1. I observe very few jems. For example, in an article he quotes passages from Josephus (not slavonic) where the messianic status of Herod is discussed. Even so, if you wanted to start a blog where you put in discussion the link 70 CE/first gospel, I would have liked to not mention at all this Nodet. Too much unmasked apologetics, really.

        1. Étienne Nodet IMHO is a very solid scholar on both OT (dating the biblical text from the Persian to Hasmonean periods), extra-biblical and NT issues. I don’t always agree with his conclusions, but he is always original and brings substantial research to whatever theories he is advancing.

              1. Nothing special, mastery of primary and secondary sources, solid reasoning, respectable record of peer-reviewed books and articles. Incidentally Nodet has reviewed both of my books in French in Revue Biblique, and they were perhaps the most thorough and thoughtful reviews I’ve had in any language.

            1. Michael Lockwood has some very interesting material on interactions between high level Buddhist delegations to the Mediterranean world, including Alexandria, documented in Indian stelae, in the 270s BCE and the subsequent development of certain written scripts and transition from oral to written religious traditions in India. He sees a persisting Buddhist influence in Egypt via the Therapeutae, which others have also argued. I don’t see his case for later Buddhist influences on Christianity being as strong, being dependent on parallels between the gospels and Buddhist literature, which others have also argued, but he is in control of the primary and secondary literature and his case is as strong as possible given the literary nature of the evidence.

        2. I do not agree with your suggestion that one should “not be mentioned” simply because one does not like their conclusions or use of certain evidence in matters unrelated to the topic at hand. There is no evidence of “apologetics” in the method of argument Nodet sets out and your claim that his argument is apologetics appears to be based solely on the conclusion his argument reaches. More importantly, do you have any views on the topic at hand?

          1. Since you have asked my view about the specific Nodet’s paragraph, here is my view: he thinks that a reason to date late the gospels is that the gospels insist on the divinity of Jesus: “Against any form of Gnosticism or Docetism, the truth of the kerigma implies that the Passion is not a kind of theater, as if Jesus were playing the role of a man” (p. 16). He mentions in support the verses around the hymn of the Philippians: while the hymn alone emphasizes divine origin, the verses around it would emphasize humanity to correct who would have read the hymn as attesting only a divine origin. So, without knowing it, Nodet is giving a lot of clues for consider the hymn interpolated and coming from the same circles of “Gnosticism and Docetism” he thinks the hymn is meant to confute. More logical coherence would require the denunciation of these passages as late (hence: interpolated) for the same reasons listed for a late dating of the gospels.
            At any case, I would like to take the extreme implication of the Nodet’s claim that “against any form of Gnosticism or Docetism, the truth of the kerigma implies that the Passion is not a kind of theater, as if Jesus were playing the role of a man”: is he conceding that IF in a gospel we have a Jesus human too human, THEN the natural provenance of a such gospel is “docetism and gnosticism” ? This would support the marcionite origin of proto-Luke (and proto-Mark?) insofar in that gospel Jesus is apparently only a man (in order to raise the suspicion, in the original readers, that Jesus is only playing as one, without being really such).

            1. I am sorry to say, Giuseppe, that you have misread Nodet. He says the opposite of what you seem to understand him saying. The Philippian Hymn speaks of Jesus being in appearance as a man — docetic implication is what Nodet points out. It is the context in which Paul places the hymn, not the hymn itself, that seeks to contradict its docetism according to Nodet.

              Ditto for the gospels. Nodet is pointing out that the synoptics stress the humanity, not the divinity, of Jesus — because they are responding to the earlier view of Jesus “as a man” who “appeared” to be acting the human role as if in a theatre instead of in reality.

              It is the gospel evolution towards an increasing emphasis on the humanity of Jesus that is, Nodet argues, the reason we should see these gospels as late: they are responding to the docetic (or gnostic) view of Jesus.

              As for responding to “a paragraph” — I thought my initial query was why you had not responded to Nodet’s arguments underlying his conclusion for the TF being Josephan — an argument he develops from page 16 through to 28.

  2. “Problem: the further away from 70 CE we get before the gospels were written, the harder it is to think that the events of 70 CE were as critical as I have long supposed them to be.”
    I’m not sure I quite see why this is so, or at least why it would be entirely dispositive of the temple’s destruction as an allusion in the Olivet prophecies (which, by the way, are amazingly similar to each other, aren’t they?). I do think that the Pauline gospel is unearthly. Christ was crucified, but returned to life and now appears here and there, including to Paul. This suggests spiritual experience, rather along the lines of the gnostics. I do also agree that the later the composition of the gospels, the more likely is a wider latitude for allusion to earthly events, such as the Bar Kokhba, etc., and by logical inference, then, there is a dilution of the allusion to 70 C.E. I do think that the “errors” in the Justin Martyr story raises questions about his access to one of the gospels, as we have them today, although not necessarily about his knowledge of them, assuming they existed–and it is of course possible that they didn’t. Nevertheless, so long as the gospels are written after 70 C.E., and not before, and if they are written by authors with some knowledge of, or connection to Judaism, which is always assumed, at least as to Mark and Matthew, it hardly seems likely that a gospel author seeking to place the story or myth into an earthly, literalist context would not have in mind, or would not see as symbolically significant, the events of 70 C.E.

  3. “Another feature of the Gospels has puzzled many commentators: the war of 70 is not a major issue.” True, and significant in understanding the gospels in relationship to the rise of Christianity detached from Jerusalem and Judea.

    My starting-point for understanding the significance of the Jewish War to early Christianity is the book of Revelation, which appears to date to spring of 70 CE based on the failed prophecy of Rev. 11:2, which knew about the siege of Jerusalem’s temple but incorrectly predicted this would last 42 months. Revelation documents a Jewish Christianity that knew of Jesus as a crucified innocent now residing in heaven; saw salvation not as personal (as in Paul’s mystery religion) but national, in line with the Hebrew Bible; sided with the rebels, who were in desperate straits; and looked forward the Rome’s defeat, but only with the imminent help of Jesus returning with heavenly armies. This provides a contemporary snapshot of Jewish (non-Pauline) Christianity in the midst of the Jewish War.

    The next stage of my analysis is the Olivet Prophecy of Matt 24 / Mark 13 / Luke 21. I note numerous affinities with Revelation (as well as with the activities of omen prophets leading up to and during the Jewish War in Josephus). I conclude that the Olivet Prophecy was an independent authentic/early subdocument that circulated during this period that saw Jesus as Daniel’s Son of Man figure returning from the heavens with power.

    The third stage is the gospels, which may date as late as the early second century, although I tend to be swayed by the parallels between the Messiah Jesus as a rival to the Messiah Vespasian in Mark that this last book dates shortly after the Jewish War, written for a Roman audience. With the Jewish War in the rearview mirror, and reflecting a Pauline rather than Jewish-Christian perspective, there is a shift away from the role of Jesus in Jewish nationalist aspirations (a worldly kingdom of God) to a new religion with Jesus as personal savior.

    1. With all due respect, I was under the impression that the earliest Christian literature, in Paul and Revelations, never refers to Jesus as returning; rather, later commentators have added such concepts. The Earliest Christian literature only refers to Jesus as coming.

      1. I see the point you are making. But in Revelation the imagery of Jesus as a slain lamb, and most explicitly the reference to his crucifixion in Jerusalem at Rev. 11.8, implicitly acknowledge the previous earthly life and death of Jesus. Rev. 11.11-12, regarding the ascension of the slain two witnesses, are surely intended to echo traditions (but not yet gospels) about Jesus returning to life:

        (Rev. 11:11) But after the three and a half days the breath b of life from God entered them, and they stood on their feet, and terror struck those who saw them. (12) Then they heard a loud voice from heaven saying to them, “Come up here.” And they went up to heaven in a cloud, while their enemies looked on.

        1. With all due respect, the claim that Rev. 11.8 should not be understood as referring to a literal Jerusalem where Jesus was crucified is not limited to mythicists; John Sweet (Revelation, p.187) suggests that it represents the social and political embodiment of rebellion against God; “its present location is Rome.” P. E. Hughes (Revelation: A Commentary, p.127) takes it as denoting “the worldwide structure of unbelief and defiance against God.” G. A. Kroedel (Augsberg Commentary on Revelation, p. 226), while regarding the city on one level as Jerusalem, sees it “not as a geographical location but a symbolic place,” representing the immoral, idolatrous, oppressive world.

          Furthermore, even accepting that the imagery of Jesus as a slain lamb is a reference to his death and crucifixion, these events are not explicitly tied to a previous earthly life and death of Jesus. To quote Earl Doherty,

          “There is little if anything in Revelation to suggest that the writer views his Christ as having been incarnated to earth. We know he envisions him as having died and risen, for Christ is said to have been “dead and came to life again” (2:8). But the circumstances of this dying and rising are never given. Even the concept of “rising” may be too strong, for no idea of a bodily resurrection is ever introduced. Such things belong to the world of the spirit and myth. John’s Christ is equated with the “Lamb,” one who was slain and has triumphed, again without an earthly setting specified. He is also equated with the Danielic “one like a son of man.” These are apocalyptic and messianic motifs longstanding in Jewish thought; in that milieu, both are heavenly figures. The same exclusively heavenly venue is allotted to the child of chapter 12, born to the “woman robed with the sun.” In the writer’s vision, this child is immediately snatched up to heaven by God to escape the clutches of a dragon (=Satan), there to await the outcome of great celestial upheavals. John gives no inkling that this child has undergone a life on earth (despite scholars’ claims that this is “implied”), much less that he had a teaching ministry, or performed a sacrificial act, which latter is in any case allotted to the Lamb.” Doherty also says, “

          Another resounding silence on the Gospel Jesus was touched on earlier. In 12:1-6, amid the great portents of the End-time drawn by John, we have the vision of the “woman robed with the sun,” the woman who, threatened by a great dragon, gives birth to “a male child destined to rule all nations with an iron rod.” John makes no attempt to integrate this vision into any traditions about Jesus’ earthly nativity, traditions which should surely have been familiar by the end of the first century, when Revelation was probably written. Immediately after the birth—which is portrayed as a heavenly event, not an earthly one—the child is “snatched up to God and his throne” and the mother flees into the wilderness. There is not so much as a nod to Jesus’ entire life on earth! Later (12:13) another reference is made to this male child, and if one looks at this passage and compares it with the reference to the sacrificed Lamb a few verses earlier (12:11), one sees that no connection is made at this point between the Lamb and the male child. Besides, the birth of the child seems to be a future event, part of the writer’s vision, while the Lamb’s slaughter is already accomplished.” and ”

          G. Beasley-Murray, in his commentary on Revelation (Revelation, p.199f), simply turns a blind eye to the whole problem. He notes that some interpreters deem it impossible that a Christian could have exalted Jesus to heaven as soon as he was born, and so they take the “birth” of the child as symbolizing Jesus’ death and resurrection. This is bad enough, but Beasley-Murray prefers a different explanation: that since the author “knew” that his readers would understand all which implicitly lay behind his deficient mythological drama, he was content to let it “stand for” the entire Christ event. (Sweet, op.cit., p.197, appeals to a similar ‘explanation’.) When anything can be made to stand for whatever one wants to see in it, silence and contradiction obviously evaporate as a difficulty!”

          At this juncture, I say that allegding that the resurrection of two preaching witnesses is evidence that the Author of Revelations was aware of Jesus’s preaching and resurrection on Earth is an argument that I have not before encountered, and find rather strange – because Jesus is one person not two – unless one adhere to one of the Jesus-as-composite figure theories.

          As an appropriate conclusion, I again cite Doherty, who wrote: “”I am coming quickly,” says Jesus in the closing lines, displaying words and sentiments which give no impression that this will be anything other than his first coming to earth, the same as that conveyed by all the other expressions of an anticipated Parousia throughout early Christian literature.”

          1. There are several points in my careful line of argumentation that you have missed. Revelation reflects a Jewish Christianity that did not view Jesus through the lens of the gospels, which were not written at that time (ca. 70 CE). The idea that Jesus was a teacher is a late idea peculiar to the later gospels and is not reflected in Revelation, which represents an earlier apocalyptic Jewish Christianity that saw Jesus as having been slain, “dead and come to life again” (Rev. 2.8; to be read in parallel with Rev. 11.8, 11-12), presently in heaven (Rev. 5.5-6, etc.) like the son of man in Daniel, and soon to return to triumph over the Romans and establish an earthly kingdom. This is pre-Gospels, so your references to the “Gospel Jesus”, “teaching ministry”, “Jesus’s preaching” completely miss the point. The early Jewish Christian snapshot of a militant entirely nationalistic Jesus in the book of Revelation is incompatible with the wishy-washy teacher and Pauline savior of the later gospels.

            For the dragon and the child in Revelation 12, I refer you to Bruce Louden’s article “Hesiod’s Theogony and the Book of Revelation 4, 12 and 19-20” in The Bible and Hellenism on the influence of Greek myth of Typhoeus, Rhea, the birth of Zeus, etc.

            And to clarify, the two witnesses of ca. 70 CE were apparently Jewish-Christian prophetic figures perhaps among the besieged in Jerusalem. It seems evident to me that their prophesied fate, to be slain, resurrected, and ascend to heaven, was modeled on well known oral traditions around the figure of Jesus crucified in Jerusalem (traditions that were later incorporated into the gospels).

            1. Fair enough. There are so many competing models of Jesus/Christian origins that I confess that I confess that I rather tended to conflate the Early Christian concepts of “Jesus as preacher”, “Jesus as returning Heavenly Judge” and “Jesus as portrayed in the Gospels”; thanks to your words, I now realize that I was wrong to do so.

              If I may ask a related question, what sources do you have in support of the claim that “the two witnesses of ca. 70 CE were apparently Jewish-Christian prophetic figures perhaps among the besieged in Jerusalem”?

              1. This follows from the text of Rev. 11:1-12, understanding that passage to reflect conditions inside the besieged temple (11:1-2, 4; cf. 11:8) under assault by the Romans (11:7) as imagined by a contemporary in distant Asia Minor (and accordingly taken with a grain of salt in terms of details offered), based on information or rumor we don’t possess. How would someone outside Judea know about the purported deeds of fellow-prophets trapped among the besieged inside the temple? The two “witnesses” are identified by the author as prophets at Rev. 11:3, 10 (with powers possibly modeled on Elijah & Elisha). Other prophets are known to have been present in the besieged temple, such as Jesus ben Ananias of Damascus. I make a reasonable assumption/inference (supported by the description as witnesses as compared to other passages in Revelation) that the two witnesses were Jewish-Christian (that is, followers of the Lamb).

              2. Are there any really good reasons to take Revelations 11 as a reliable narration of one particular historical incident?

                1) Two or three witnesses dying and resurrecting does not seem historical.

                2) The witnesses are few.

                3) There were earlier accounts of similarly implausible resurrections in earlier texts. Bones coming together in the desert, to make living people. 4) Resurrection on Maccabees. 5) Speculations that John or Jesus, were prophets Elijah or 6) Elisha somehow returning. Etc.

                7) There probably were a – very – few surviving witnesses to be sure; even given the thoroughness and zeal of the Romans. Who might even want some captive witnesses for interrogation.

                Are your noted 8) coincidences of dates and surviving names and so forth, widely considered authoritative? Or 9) as not simply interpolative retrojection?

                In any case, 10) if accurate, would they be considered prophesy after the fact?

                Or in any case 11) contradicted by other NT texts? And their contrary emphasis mostly on an admittedly wimpy spiritual/clerical kingdom?

              3. James, for the record I don’t consider the account of the two witnesses in Revelation 11 to be a reliable narration. The author was said to be writing from the perspective of Asia Minor (which I credit) and had no direct or detailed knowledge of events inside the siege of Jerusalem. We could talk about the fevered imagination of the prophets as a class, and the author of Revelation in particular, but I don’t think that’s necessary here.

            2. Have you read the following blog post?


              Because it seems to espouse a Jesus similar to what you advocate for. Roger Parvus went from a Christ-mythicist to an advocate of the claim that Paul and early Christians had deified an earthly man who “was not a teacher or even a leader of any kind. If he went up to Jerusalem with some fellow believers in an imminent Kingdom of God—perhaps a group of John the Baptist’s followers—he was not the leader of the group. Once in Jerusalem he may have done or said something that got him pulled out from the others and crucified. That would have been the end of the story. Except that another member of the group had a vision of him resurrected, and interpreted it as meaning that the Kingdom of God was closer than ever. Jesus thereby began to take on an importance all out of proportion with his real status as a nobody. The accretions began. And the excuses for why no one had taken much notice of him before.”

              1. No, I hadn’t read this post and I find it rather speculative based on subjective plausibilities, with “if X… perhaps… he may have done or said…” etc.
                I tend to focus on datable texts and what they actually say as reflecting views current at that point in time in specific circles.

    2. Russell Gmirkin – Your argument for the failed prophecy is beguilingly straightforward, but I think it needs defense of two fronts. Firstly, do you really think it certain that even if John was writing years after the fall of Jerusalem he would be constrained by historical facts? He’s out to write poetry and theology from an environment geographically miles from Jerusalem, a thought world immersed in apocalyptic and a state of mind possibly altered by a few too many magic mushrooms. I think he might still go for the fulfilment of prophecy angle even if he knew it was untrue.
      Secondly, what is the basis for the “correct” duration of the siege?

  4. Russell Gmirkin, Revelation 11:2 refers to the trampling “of the Holy City underfoot for forty-two months.” Is that necessarily a failed prophecy? The reference is to the city, not the temple, specifically. Just wondered what your thoughts are on this?

    1. (Revelation 11:1) I was given a reed like a measuring rod and was told, “Go and measure the temple of God and the altar, with its worshipers. (11:2) But exclude the outer court; do not measure it, because it has been given to the Gentiles. They will trample on the holy city for 42 months.

      The context is the temple, which is also why the city of Jerusalem is described as “the holy city”. The inner court of the temple appears to be inviolate, but the outer court of the temple “has been given over to the Gentiles.” This clearly depicts the occupation of Jerusalem and siege of its defenders within the temple that occurred in spring-summer of 70 CE. Jerusalem and its temple fell in August or September, I forget the exact date offhand. The apocalypse, written from outside Judea, contains some minor inaccuracies, but there are allusions to Vespasian and Titus (and probably Josephus as the false prophet). The 42 months prediction was based on Daniel and it’s division of the last of the 70 weeks into two parts of 42 months each. In reality the city and temple fell after holding out about 6 months. Like the book of Daniel and other such texts, you can date Revelation by the “failure point” where “fulfilled” ex eventu prophecy gives way to failed actual prophecy. Both books were typical examples of apocalyptic crisis literature.

        1. The two were effectively identical. In the early years of the war (66-69), Vespasian avoided attacking Jerusalem, instead concentrating on Galilee and other peripheral rebel regions. It was only in 70 CE that the Romans turned to Jerusalem itself. I don’t believe that an outsider view from Asia Minor (which I tend to credit as the author’s location) was able to make distinctions regarding which specific parts of Jerusalem were under siege. Rev. 11.1-2 seems to know that part of the city was under Gentile control, but not the inner temple where the rebel forces were concentrated.

      1. I was reminded of your thoughts on Revelation when I came across the following — a different thought — by Eysinga, thanks to a link by Klaus Schilling:

        That Rev. 21: 10 (the holy city of Jerusalem descending from heaven) must have been written by a Christian Jew shortly after the fall of Jerusalem, seems incorrect to me, because the New Jerusalem is not a renewed or restored Jerusalem, but a completely new and different kind of Jerusalem, which was with God from the beginning of the world (Syr. Baruch 4: 1-6) and which Moses saw on Sinai (4 Ezr. 4). This idea could only emerge after 70, from which we may then conclude that also because of Gal. 4: 26 Paul’s letter to the Galatians must be dated after 70. Brandon seems to me to be making the same mistake that F. Dijkema2 made, when he attributed Jerusalem and the twelve names of the tribes of Israel on the gates to the Jewish-Christianity of the author. In my opinion, what we have here is anti-Jewish Catholicism, which derives its conception from the Old Testament: the Christian sees himself as the heir to the salvation that the Jews have forfeited.

        DeepL translation of page 27 of De Wording van de Katholike Kerk http://radikalkritik.de/geschichte/g-a-van-den-bergh-van-eysinga-werke/de-wording-van-de-katholike-kerk

        1. While this is an interesting argument (which I have not read before), I don’t find myself in agreement. The description of the new Jerusalem in Revelation 21 has parallels with the description of an ideal Jerusalem in Ezekiel 40-48 (to which Rev. 21 has literary connections), the Temple Scroll and especially the New Jerusalem Scroll from Qumran. The return of Jesus as conquering Messiah, the establishment of a thousand year millennial reign in a kingdom of God centered at Jerusalem, and a resplendent new Jerusalem, purged of the wickedness that had made the old Jerusalem a spiritual Sodom and Egypt (Rev. 11.8)–these all seem reflective of Jewish Christianity, contra Eysinga.

          1. Russell Gmirkin – surely you are conflating Revelation with other apocalyptic when you refer to “The return of Jesus as conquering Messiah….” Until Revelation, it was just the bog standard Jewish Messiah doing the things you list and therefore not “reflective of Jewish Christianity” but of Jewish apocalyptic.

          2. “The return of Jesus as conquering Messiah, the establishment of a thousand year millennial reign in a kingdom of God centered at Jerusalem, and a resplendent new Jerusalem, purged of the wickedness that had made the old Jerusalem a spiritual Sodom and Egypt (Rev. 11.8)–these all seem reflective of Jewish Christianity”

            Sounds like what that French priest Gallez and some others have written about the Jewish Christian sect that later morphed into Islam.

            The earliest “muhammad” mentions are almost always from non “muslim/islamic” sources- Byzantine clerics’ notes and documents. They were all in relation to apologetics and polemics between Trinitarians, Unitarians, Jewish Christian sects on the fringe and other more Orthodox Christian sects. Mostly through biblical lenses and narratives.

            This paper has a brief section on the early mentions of “muhammad”. Rest of the paper analyses how a christological term was euhemerized over a period of few centuries into an Arabian prophet.

            From muhammad Jesus to Prophet of the Arabs: The Personalization of a Christological Epithet from Early Islam https://storage.googleapis.com/wzukusers/user-27418862/documents/58d29d10a6de7QHHIDuk/Early%20Islam%2007%20-%20Ohlig%20%20Muhammad%20Jesus%2011%20Sept.pdf

        2. Neil – the link that you have given is to a review by Eysinga of a book by G.F. Brandon – “The Fall of Jerusalem”. Whilst Eysinga uses this as a springboard for many of his arguments, a more sustained discussion as to why the Pauline literature should be seen as second century creations can be found in chapters III and IV of Eysinga’s book available on-line at:-

  5. I deem the excessively early dating of the canonical apocalypse recklessly naive.

    The only hitherto sufficiently critical approach has been made by Gustaaf Adolf van den Bergh van Eysinga in De Wording van de Katholike Kerk, using, against Couchoud’s Le Dieu Jésus (one of the favourite books of our resident Giuseppe), the following observations:

    The apocalypse fits into the sphere of Montanist zealotism / martyriomania; it rigorously fights against Basilidean concepts; and it relies on a developed Roman church. This points to no earlier than the middle of the second century.

    Van Eysinga’s work is available on deceased H. Detering’s radikalkritik.de .

      1. Approximately two years ago, R. Salm (known here for his examination of the historical records of Nazareth) tried to look into possibilities of preserving radikalkritik.de or at least its major contents. I do not know whether Salm succeeded in his efforts.

        Robert M. Price (not to be confused with our resident R. G. Price) even seemingly knew living relatives of H. Detering; so he might have organized something.

  6. Justin’s mention of the “memoirs of the apostles” being read in Rome in the 150s does not suggest or imply this is a recent development.

    However, to counter-argue, his sense of any textual history could be limited to his arrival in Rome. They could have started up that tradition a six months before and he could be none the wiser. His conversion did not require them, after all.

  7. The absence of the cataclysmic Jewish War in the New Testament documents fits in nicely with the understanding that they are not based on contemporary historical events.

  8. H. Detering does not exactly say that Mark’s depends wholesale on Matthew’s, but that the latter’s version of the syn.apoc. is closer to a supposed earlier document.

    After summarizing the deviations of the two versions, it is seen that Mark’s consistently appeals to readers with a less firm Jewish background than those of Matthew’s (e.g. Ebionites); for example, Nark does not mention the name of Daniel as the predictor of the desolation and abomination.

    Then Detering sees three examples of this list as relevant for the determination of originality. He needs to quote the Greek texts, and I can’t type Greek letteers; whence I can’t reproduce the argument as faithfully as needed withiout long circumscription.

  9. “Set up” One can begin to see the cosmos unfolding like a carefully planned, timed machine which can be entered and taken part in. This is the divination that only key figures and a few close to him knew in complete extent at the time, and which he entered into indeed by knowledge. The crucifixion was the culmination and it was done to excess to make a point in three stages, like the division in which there is a definite split and divide where the main character is killed not once but three times for maximum suffering in concordance with the holy trinity (the foundation), the number three always being key–two on one side and one on the other: Episode 1, a few soldiers present, he was hung from a tree until almost dead, retrieved at the last minute and taken to dungeon where he was beaten, strapped, whipped with barbs, then allowed to recover. Episode 2, publicly dragged through street while made to carry crossbeam to Golgotha. Nailed to crossbeam. Hung for several hours, then taken down still alive so to recover. Partition. Final Episode 3, recaptured and taken to Jordan where he was again beaten, hands and feet tied behind him so the enemy could loot the entire house thus bringing to conclusion the divine life (Gospel of Thomas), a millstone tied around his neck, and thrown into the Jordan where he remains to this day (Mandaean history). What follows is a presumed period of 1,000 years where the destroyers of life are held in a place called purgatory while the rebuilding of life can be done without interference.

  10. For what it is worth, my 3 cents.

    Some things Richard Carrier said might explain lack of biblical coverage of 70 AD; by saying that event so totally destroyed Jewish culture, that no real Jewish records were made or survived; just Josephus … the Roman collaborator.

    Then too? The event might seem to qualify as an apocalypse … but one without a Jewish triumph or recovery. A big embarassment for believers?

    And of course? The future Roman Church would not favor making Rome the enemy in an apocalyose.

  11. What a about Josephus’ account of Cestius entering the outer portions of the city in “the thirtieth of the month Hyperberetaeus” [November A.D. 66]? See Jewish War II 524-531 (Loeb ed. p. 527)? Just wondering.

    1. Well, yes, you could make an argument based on the brief incursion into Jerusalem by Cestius in Nov. 66 CE War 2.527-540. He pressed an attack for six days (War 2.534-535), and then withdrew, first to his camp on Mt. Scopas, then in disastrous flight to Beth-Horon and the coast. After he reported these events to Nero he was replaced by Vespasian.
      In my opinion, this does not answer to the situation described in Rev. 11.2, where the court outside the temple is “given to the Gentiles” who tread upon the holy city for forty-two months. Cestius was in Jerusalem for only a few days, no part of the city was under his undisputed control, and Jerusalem was indeed free from the Romans for the almost the entirety of the next 42 months, until spring 70 CE. Cestius’ attempt would have been (and was, properly) described as a Roman defeat.

    1. But it is of interest to many of us. Basically Rome inherited Jerusalem around 64 BC, as local rivalries destroyed the Jewish state. That left plenty of time for minor interruptions of Roman domination, before the essentially total destuction of Jerusalem in 70 AD.

      Nearly all Israeli Jews were on the Temple mount, for a holy day, when the Romans trapped them on site. When in addition ro other things, Jerusalem burned totally to the ground, except two or three towers, estimates suggest that up to 700,000 died, eventually.

      And as Romans inhabited the main tower, and forbade Jews from inhabiting the city, temple- or Jerusalem-based Judaism was over. For hundreds if not thousands of years.

      Rabbinic Judausm appeared; and a form of Romanized Judaism called Christianity. But the real thing was very very thoroughly obliterated.

      So thoroughly that the silence is still deafening.

      Mr. G. or anyone is welcome to ammend any mistakes I have made in my account. But I think it mostly will hold.

      1. I would question how plausible your claim that “Nearly all Israeli Jews were on the Temple mount, for a holy day, when the Romans trapped them on site” is. I would be inclined to regard such a claim as hyperbole and/or propaganda. How often, I wonder, would nearly all Israeli Jews assemble upon the Temple Mount at the best of times during the first century CE (given the disruption to their businesses travel times, difficulties in logistics) – let alone during the strife and disruption caused by the first Jewish Revolt.

        1. Possibly. Many today question Josephus’ figure of 1.1 million. Saying that was the population of all of Palestine; only half of whom were Jews.

          But Joseohus mentions the whole walled town being full for passover; and assaulted. And walled in. And how completely murderous the troops were; not leaving anyone at all alive around them. Possibly killing non Jews too in their murderous rage, we speculate. As rival zealot groups, leaders, attacked each other. And destroyed their own food stockpiles.

          Yes it could be partly propaganda. But suppose it was even half true? Even then, the devastation was incredible.

          And after that, Romans suppressed any remaining Jews.

          And it may be that after all, the very silence speaks. Telling us that almost no one was left to tell the story. And those escaped Jews who could tell it, were too ashamed and devastated and suppressed, all at once.

          We see that with smaller groups, villages, tribes, in modern times. Some so thoroughly wiped out that no local witnesses remained. As the conquerors just moved on to the next town, occupied with new conquests.

          Maybe absence of commentaries, came from absence of commentators.

          A typical Roman idea; incredibly brutal. But effective.

  12. So, I’m trying to understand the comment from Mr. Gmirkin, above, beginning with the quotation, to wit: “Another feature of the Gospels has puzzled many commentators: the war of 70 is not a major issue.” True, and significant in understanding the gospels in relationship to the rise of Christianity detached from Jerusalem and Judea. . . .

    “. . . With the Jewish War in the rearview mirror, and reflecting a Pauline rather than Jewish-Christian perspective, there is a shift away from the role of Jesus in Jewish nationalist aspirations (a worldly kingdom of God) to a new religion with Jesus as personal savior.”

    I take this comment, and the subsequent clarifications (which, incidentally, I very much appreciate regarding the Book of Revelation) to mean that “the war of 70 is not a major issue” in the Gospels, in the sense that they are all (even Mark and Matthew) expressions of Pauline Christianity (Christ as personal savior) and not pre-Pauline Jewish Christianity (more traditional, nationalistic Jewish Messianism), so that the concern of John of Patmos is quite distinct from the concerns of the Paulines who write the gospels. For them, the war is over; it doesn’t matter so much. However, I think the gospel writers are creative writers. They are poets, of a sort. There is all that language in the gospels about people who can and can’t understand parables, and so on. And Jesus was a Jew, who gives us the Olivet prophecies in a period supposed to have occurred almost 40 years before 70 CE; and he gets the same fate as all the other Jews who were slaughtered in that war: crucifixion. So the question then becomes, what do these Pauline poets do with that image?

    1. Yes of course. In the face of any fallen savior or kingdom, the question is, how do you rationalize it? One very standard (Pauline) way, is to turn likely promises of real actual physical saving, saving your physical lives from death from enemies, into metaphors. For saving your mind or spirit from bad thoughts, despair. Even in the face of physical disasters.

      Whenever such things took place.

      Here though, you could also consider the possibilty that the main precipitating events, may have occurred on a slightly shifted – later – timescale, from what common historicist conventions currently dictate. Maybe the most Jewish martyrs – even a “Jesus” ? – died more likely, not in c. 35, but in 70 AD.

      Here therefore, we need to more firmly establish that 70 was so devastating; and answer why the NT barely mentions that date, if at all.

      In any case? References to dying heroes, martyrs, would be messiahs, and salvation, could all be metaphoricalized in the same way; and anytime.

      1. Regarding specifically, Revelation? Revelation to me is just an omnibus compilation of all major earlier Jewish end times prohesies. Their proposed answers to disasters, was just that such disasters, defeats, would be temporary; Jews win – even physically – in the End.

        But in that case? 70 AD – and the next hundreds of years – might seem to defeat that prediction.

        So 70 AD becomes important.

        To answer that defeat, Pauline Christians metaphoricalized; Jews seem to hold on with “hope”? Another answer in the spirit, but not physical reality.

  13. Breaking the Code, Bruce Metzger.
    “The imagery that John uses to describe his visions may have been in part suggested by storms, earthquakes, and eclipses of the first century. If, as is likely, Revelation was written after A.D. 79, when the sudden eruption of Vesuvius completely engulfed the city of Pompeii with molten lava and destroyed ships in the Gulf of Naples, then John’s readers, from reports they heard of the catastrophe, would have had no difficulty picturing “something like a great mountain, burning with fire, [being] thrown into the sea” (8:8).

    So, my simplified view, to quote a current U.S. Democrat, “Never let a crisis go to waste”. So… writers of Gospels and Revelation use historical events in the past for their own benefit, regardless of how distant in the past.

    So, my opinion, the Gospels were written after 70AD (because of Olivet Discourse). Revelation was written after 79AD (because of Pompeii). But how far after, can’t be determined from the historical events.

    As far as the Gospels not making a big deal about 70AD (other than Olivet) – it was a Jewish disaster, not a Christian disaster. To be used to advance Christian agendas, not Jewish agendas. Josephus used The Antiquities of the Jews to advanced the Jewish agenda in the eyes of the Romans, since Romans supposedly respected ancient religions, not new ones like the Christians. So Josephus talked about Mose, but it sure didn’t happen close to Josephus’s time 🙂

    Just my 4 cents.

    1. Perhaps, Gary, there were no Christian agendas at the time the temple fell. What we know as Christianity might well have developed from it one of the reactions to the Jewish disaster.

      1. Plus – remember I was talking about Jewish and Christian agendas at the time of the authorship of Gospels, Revelation, Wars, and Antiquities, not at the time of the 70 or 79AD events. I think everyone agrees that most (maybe with the exception of Wars), were written well after the historic events. I guess my point – even if written 50 or more years later, the authors had an agenda – and never let a crisis go to waste, even if much after the fact. What else was there to write about in 100AD, with no CNN, and limited, and well-known, historic disasters 🙂

  14. As to the two witnesses, I note that Gmirkin’s point that “their prophesied fate, to be slain, resurrected, and ascend to heaven, was modeled on well known oral traditions around the figure of Jesus crucified in Jerusalem (traditions that were later incorporated into the gospels)” may be true even if a Christian interpolator found the Jewish original text saying:

    Their bodies were hanged/crucified in the public square of the great city—which is figuratively called Sodom and Egypt—

    …and since he knew about only one crucified (= the Lord Jesus Christ), he removed “were hanged/crucified” from the original text and then he added the interpolation, meant to explain who was “really” the only crucified victim:

    Their bodies … in the public square of the great city—which is figuratively called Sodom and Egypt—where also their Lord was crucified

    But naturally he has left the traces of the his corruption + interpolation of the text (a lacuna appears in our texts after ‘bodies’).

    1. Yes, the likelihood of later added interpolations – and subtractive editings too – probably wreck any really cleanly dated documentation. Or any timeline we propose. But we are doing the best we can. Looking for prevailing patterns – and then their modifications.

      To me it seems so incredibly odd that a Bible would stop short just exactly before 70 AD. Just before such a gigantic event. Unless some kind of huge Denial and Repression and Replacement was underway

  15. Per Vorster, W. S. (1993). “The production of the Gospel of Mark: An essay on intertextuality”. HTS. 49 (3): 393.

    [The author of ”Euangélion katà Mârkon”] refers back to precursor texts and to intertextual codes of apocalyptic disruption and disaster, but … also takes up the apocalyptic theme of the imminent coming of the Son of Man, which is a Marcan creation (see Mack 1987).

    So if there are “intertextual codes of apocalyptic disruption and disaster”? Do NT scholars have tunnel vision and are fixated on the war of 70 to explain these intertextual codes of apocalyptic disruption and disaster?

    1. Or 1) were these apocalyptic codes say, always there in almost all Jewish writing? 2) Many countries have traditions of a hoped-for super leader, who will arrive one day to defeat all their enemies.

      And of course 3) yes, events of 70 AD would tempt many believers after that date, to interpolate any apparent apocalyptic references. If these were “intertextual” furthermore, then that increases by an order of magnitude, the likelihood of an editorial hand; in partial contol of many gospels.

      Thank you for your useful suggestion.

    1. So the personal salvation in Jesus faith existed prior to the war of 66-70 and you are not saying that the personal faith itself was “invented” after the failure of the hope in the national salvation in 70?

      1. That would seem to be the implication if some of Paul’s letters are authentic and pre-Jewish War.
        I tend to view Rev. 2-3 as authentic and anti-Pauline, and the epistle of James also possibly authentic and anti-Pauline. If these are correct (I personally have not seen compelling arguments to believe they are not) then these seem to point to Pauline Christianity in competition with Jewish Messianism prior to the Jewish War. The idea of personal salvation seems to be a typically Greek (also Egyptian) idea, a feature of mystery religions.

        1. Where would you first date the notion of a mental or spiritual salvation, as opposed to – or as an adjunct to – the notion of being physically saved from enemies?

          “Paul” probably had it; whenever he existed. But for that matter, spirituality had existed well before Paul. Comparative Religion would note ascetics like the Buddha, the prince who denounced attachment to material possessions; even the material “world”, and certainly his father’s material kingdom, some would say.

          But while this spiritualization of a formerly material “salvation” and “kingdom” was quite old, maybe a high degree of popularity for that, didn’t fully or widely develop, until the apocalyptic destruction of the physical material kingdom of say Jersusalem, in 70 AD.

          With material victories and kingdom gone, many then turned to a mental or spiritual or heavenly kingdom of the mind, imagination, etc ..

          So yes, spirituality exists before 70; but also before Paul. But in any case, for many, it was only the physical catastrophe of 70, that motivated many to partly abandon (out of necessity) materist ambitions. To become religious; ascetics; priests; “spiritual” Christians, etc.. In the metaphorical “kingdom” of the spirit.

          So that would be another proposed timeline. Taking into account some of the insights of say, Comparative Religion. With 70 AD right in the middle, as the pivotal point.

          1. Personal salvation meaning escape from the cycle of reincarnation to permanently join the gods is fairly well documented in the Greek mystery religions (Pythagorean, Orphic, Eleusinian). Plato was of course a key innovator in the notion of a divine immortal soul, judgment after death, heaven and purgatory and hell, with philosophical communion with divine reason being the key to the soul joining the gods after death. The Hebrew Bible has a notion of divine covenantal blessings or curses on the nation and collective national salvation. I don’t when and how the idea of personal mental or spiritual salvation arrived among the Jews or where Paul obtained such notions, which I consider significant unsolved historical problems of considerable interest. Neil Godfrey is undoubtedly better informed on current thinking on these questions than I am.

            1. In The Open Society and Its Enemies, Popper remarks, “It is hard to understand why those of Plato’s commentators who praise him for fighting against the subversive conventionalism of the Sophists, and for establishing a spiritual naturalism ultimately based on religion, fail to censure him for making a convention, or rather an invention, the ultimate basis of religion.” Religion for Plato is a noble lie, at least if we assume that Plato meant all of this sincerely, not cynically. Popper finds Plato’s conception of religion to have been very influential in subsequent thought. From: https://web.archive.org/web/20071209060939/http://www.positiveliberty.com/2007/07/open-society-vi-on-religion-as-a-noble-lie.html

              https://vridar.org/2008/05/25/the-beloved-and-only-beloved-sons-sacrificed-by-loving-fathers-offering-of-isaac-5/#comment-142805 How far back in the Saite period might the process of “intercultural translation” [as Assman calls it] and/or Hellenization have begun? Some of the few extant inscriptions of the Carian language are: 60 funeral inscriptions of the Caromemphites, an ethnic enclave at Memphis, Egypt, five of them bilingual (Carian-Egyptian); two inscriptions from Sais in the Nile delta are also bilingual (The Caromemphites were descendants of Carian mercenaries who in the first quarter of the sixth century BCE came to Egypt to fight in the Egyptian army, as told by Herodotus, Histories, II.152-154, 163-169.)

              https://vridar.org/2017/10/26/those-hellenistic-and-hellenizing-maccabees-and-pharisees/#comment-141115 Do you have an opinion on the various etymologies put forward by the Semiticist Edward Lipinski? L’Étymologie De “Juda” Lipinski, E. Vetus Testamentum, Volume 23 (3): 380 – Jan 1, 1973 in particular: https://vridar.org/2017/10/26/those-hellenistic-and-hellenizing-maccabees-and-pharisees/#comment-144674

              1. I am fascinated by Plato’s works in the same sense I am fascinated by any and all ancient texts that usher us into that alien world. But I do not like Plato’s fundamentals that have become, in effect, the root from which has flourished all that I loathe on the political and ideological “right”, in particular the extreme right, of course, up to today.

              2. I have no problem with the idea of the name of Judah originating as a toponym. The application of the word to a tribe has, in my view, fictional origins. There never were twelve tribes except, perhaps, as a relatively late artificial construct.

          2. “But while this spiritualization of a formerly material “salvation” and “kingdom” was quite old…”

            2nd century BCE.

            “father of the Jews…he tore out his entrails…calling upon the Lord of life and spirit to give them back to him again. This was the manner of his death.”

            2 Maccabees 14
            37 A certain Razis, one of the elders of Jerusalem, was denounced to Nicanor as a man who loved his fellow citizens and was very well thought of and for his good will was called father of the Jews. 38 For in former times, when there was no mingling with the Gentiles, he had been accused of Judaism, and for Judaism he had with all zeal risked body and life. 39 Nica′nor, wishing to exhibit the enmity which he had for the Jews, sent more than five hundred soldiers to arrest him; 40 for he thought that by arresting him he would do them an injury. 41 When the troops were about to capture the tower and were forcing the door of the courtyard, they ordered that fire be brought and the doors burned. Being surrounded, Razis fell upon his own sword, 42 preferring to die nobly rather than to fall into the hands of sinners and suffer outrages unworthy of his noble birth. 43 But in the heat of the struggle he did not hit exactly, and the crowd was now rushing in through the doors. He bravely ran up on the wall, and manfully threw himself down into the crowd. 44 But as they quickly drew back, a space opened and he fell in the middle of the empty space. 45 Still alive and aflame with anger, he rose, and though his blood gushed forth and his wounds were severe he ran through the crowd; and standing upon a steep rock, 46 with his blood now completely drained from him, he tore out his entrails, took them with both hands and hurled them at the crowd, calling upon the Lord of life and spirit to give them back to him again. This was the manner of his death.

  16. Russell — two more questions:

    1. In your thoughts on the Book of Revelation, do you have an explanation for the author identifying the anticipated conquering Son of Man figure being identified with the crucified innocent?

    2. From what you have said about the Olivet prophecy and it existing as an independent document before being added to the Gospel of Mark, it appears you do not accept the reasons Hermann Detering has set out for dating it post 135. Do you see any Hadrian-era influence on it at all? If not, why not?

  17. I think conquest and the establishment of an earthly kingdom of God (theocracy) was always the agenda. This was the charge for which the Romans crucified Jesus (although his later followers claimed his innocence, of which one is entitled to be skeptical). After the crucifixion there were persistent rumors that Jesus was alive and some of these rumors said he had been taken up into the heavens. You can see some of the early debate in the Olivet prophecy, which held to the Son of Man residing in heaven post-resurrection scenario, as did the author of Revelation.

    I found James Stephen Valliant’s arguments on Mark’s Messianism as a response to that of Jews in some circles recognizing Vespasian as Messiah pretty compelling (although I do not believe Christianity was a Roman invention). Detering’s case had some factual and argumentative errors.

    (1) He claims that the Apocalypse of Peter (Ethiopic version) has a single false Christ who persecutes Christians. “But this deceiver is not the Christ. And when they reject him he shall slay with the sword, and there shall be many martyrs. Then shall the twigs of the fig-tree, that is, the house of Israel, shoot forth: many shall become martyrs at his hand. Enoch and Elias shall be sent to teach them that this is the deceiver which must come into the world and do signs and wonders to deceive. And therefore shall they that die by his hand be martyrs.” Fair enough, and this fits Bar Kochva and may even allude to Bar Kochva. But the Apocalypse of Peter earlier referred at least twice to (multiple) false Christs deceiving many in line with the Olivet Prophecy. Detering somewhat conveniently ignores this to focus on the passage with a single persecuting false Messiah. It seems to me the multiple false Christs was the early, original and authentic text, whereas the singular persecuting Christ is a late and inauthentic addition to the text, probably updating or augmenting the Olivet Prophecy in light of events during the Bar Kochva rebellion.

    (2) On a similar note, the Olivet prophecy does not correlate persecutions with the appearance of false Christs. This is only in the Apocalypse of Peter. This does strongly suggest that the addition to the Apocalypse of Peter refers to the Bar Kochva rebellion, since Bar Kochva was said to have executed Christians who did not recognize him as Messiah. But this does not apply to the earlier text of the Olivet prophecy in the Gospels. (As a side point, the reference to Enoch and Elias in the Apocalypse of Peter seems to refer to the two witnesses of Revelation. The extensive discussion of the lake of fire in the Apocalypse of Peter is another amplification of Revelation.)

    (3) While Detering makes a number of correlations of the Olivet Prophecy and the Bar Kochva rebellion, the sequence of events is jumbled. The Olivet Prophecy has

    (a) The rise of false Christs.
    (b) The abomination of desolation (Matthew/Mark) and/or Jerusalem surrounded with armies (Luke).
    (c) Flee to the mountains, but pray that your flight is not in winter.

    (b) takes place at the culmination of events in the Olivet Prophecy, and the flight in (c) is urged when the disciples see (b). Yet in Detering’s reconstruction, the abomination of desolation is the temple of Jupiter set up in 129/130 CE in the new Roman colony of Jerusalem (renamed Aelia Capitolina) occupied by his legionnaires. This instigating event takes place before any of the events of the Bar Kochva rebellion, including Bar Kochva’s Messianic status or the persecution of Christians. Detering sees the warning for Judeans to flee to the mountains, suddenly, without even returning to their homes, and hopefully not in wintertime, to be an allusion to the winter of 133/134 CE–long, long after the abomination of desolation–when Severus was assembling his massive armies in preparation for his military operations against Bar Kochva. This was an opportune time when armies were NOT surrounding Jerusalem (contra Luke 21, which Detering does not discuss). I don’t see why a sudden, urgent flight was required such as the Olivet Prophecy describes, and which to me seems to point to the need to escape from the encircling armies of Luke 21. But most importantly, the flight cannot have taken place in both 129/130 CE and 133/134 CE.

    (4) To me, the systematic point-by-point correlations between the Olivet Prophecy and Revelation (which secondary literature does not seem to have noticed) indicates that the Olivet Prophecy was known to the author. This in turn points to the Olivet Prophecy as having been written in some form no later than 70 CE.

    I don’t entirely rule out Bar Kochva era interpolations elsewhere in the Gospels, but at this point not in the Olivet Prophecy in my opinion.

    1. Hi Russell,
      If I remember well, Couchoud argued the same thing, but in a different order of dependance: the Olivet Prophecy being based on Recelation and not the contrary. In particular, the expression “Boanerghes” is a Pauline parody of the two witnesses and their power of throwing fire from the mouth. In addition, the mother of Jesus is described negatively in Mark (the “out of himself” episode) because the polemical target is the Woman of Revelation, allegory of the Jewish-Christian church. What do you think?

    2. Thanks, Russell. Follow up: Is it too much to ask you to post a list of key books and articles that we must read to get on top of the events of 129-135 in Palestine? Thanks again.

      1. I don’t have anything approaching an exhaustive list, but one recent title is Menahem Mor, The Second Jewish Revolt: The Bar Kockba War, 132-136 CE (Leiden: Brill, 2016). It has a good bibliography by chapter in the back.

        1. I have that. Must dig it out again. Meanwhile, look what turned up at my post office box this morning:

          = Revelation of John and Emperor Hadrian

          Will do Mor first, though — before a machine translation tries to confuse me with Witulski.

    3. “I think conquest and the establishment of an earthly kingdom of God (theocracy) was always the agenda. This was the charge for which the Romans crucified Jesus”

      Thought he was killed for being leader of a failed coup attempt. A royal claimant to a throne stepping out of the shadows with a rabble of followers.

    1. More precisely, I refer you to Couchoud’s Creation of Christ, volume 2 (if you search for ‘thunder’ you will it).

      The idea doesn’t come from Couchoud, probably. The best case for Mark as polemical reaction against Revelation (and therefore in full knowledge of it) would come probably by Volkmar (unfortunately, I can’t read his book in German). So I read about Volkmar (as you know, the first to theorize that the Gospel of Mark was 100% a midrash based on Paul written by Paulinists):

      To understand Volkmar, one must recognize that, as the last great member of the Tübingen School, he was indebted to F.C. Baur’s famous Tendenzkritic and his conviction that much of early Christian literature could be explained on the basis of the conflict(s) between a Petrine “Jewish Christianity” and a Pauline “Gentile Christianity.” Volkmar’s particular contribution was to argue that that conflict began in earnest with the Book of Revelation. He understood this text to be a challenge to Pauline Christianity and its message of salvation for all, and he considered the Gospel of Mark to be its direct, literary rebuttal.
      (extracted from: C. E. Ferguson, A New Perspective on the Use of Paul in the Gospel of Mark)

  18. Pauline spiritualization of the kingdom could be seen as intellectual reaction against Revelations; but reaction grounded in what kind of sentiments? A desire to avoid catastrophe possibly?

    But I still prefer to suggest that spiritualization was not a reaction to an intellectual idea; but simple acknowledgement of the collapse of the material kingdom, as a “faite accompli” (sp?). An accomplished fact. A done deed.

    With the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 AD, the most obvious-seeming heir to the status of a fully Jewish/Godly kingdom was obviously gone, for the immediate foreseeable future.

    I suppose it seems anti-intellectual to insist on anything this simple. But sometimes – if rarely – things in life are as simple as that.

    Sorry to keep harping on this.

  19. Russell, above you wrote,

    I found James Stephen Valliant’s arguments on Mark’s Messianism as a response to that of Jews in some circles recognizing Vespasian as Messiah pretty compelling (although I do not believe Christianity was a Roman invention). Detering’s case had some factual and argumentative errors.

    When you say “response”, do you mean a critical rejoinder against Jews who recognized Vespasian as Messiah?

  20. In his book Creating Christ: How Roman Emperors Invented Christianity, James Stevens Valliant (with Warren Fahy) points out that (1) Josephus recognized Vespasian as the prophesied Messiah who would come out of Judea to rule the world; (2) this was utilized by Vespasian as propaganda to legitimize his rise as emperor; (3) that certain healing miracles in the gospel of Mark were patterned on Vespasian’s reported miraculous acts of healing in Alexandria; (4) that Roman emperors were recognized as the son of God (after their death). He claimed that Mark was written in Rome after 70 CE with Jesus modeled on Vespasian. I think he makes a pretty good case.

    How does one explain the data? Valliant says that Christianity was invented by Romans as a response to Jewish Messianism, to defuse rebellious tendencies among the Jews by portraying Jesus as pacifist, a theme reinforced in Paul’s letters that call for Christians to submit to Roman governmental authority.

    While this hypothesis proceeds out of the data, it is not the only such hypothesis available. I take the position that Mark was written in Rome by the Christian community there portraying Jesus as it did as a response to Vespasian Messianism, that is, to depict Jesus as the real, Judean-born Messiah in the face of claims that Vespasian fulfilled the Jewish prophecies. Mark’s Jesus as competitor to Vespasian seems to me to be a more common sense interpretation of the same data.

    1. Mark’s Jesus as competitor to Vespasian seems to me to be a more common sense interpretation of the same data.

      One of Valliant/Fahy’s key pointers to the Gospel of Mark suggesting Vespasian is the coming messiah is the prophecy of Mark 13. One might say that if Mark was presenting Jesus as the true messiah and alternative to Vespasian, then he seemed to leave room for readers to interpret Vespasian and Titus as the fulfilment of the Mark 13 prophecy.

      Thoughts? — yours and anyone else’s, too, of course.

  21. To Russ re the dating of Rev 11 and Revelation: I think there may be a false premise assumed that that the date of prophesy-falsification of any source oracle in Rev is the same as the date of final redaction of the entire text. A different scheme would see the oracles of e.g. Rev 11 and 12 as from ca. 70 but the final text which makes uses of sources caught up into the final text as later in date. There are many reasons to support a later date of the final text, but three of the strongest are

    (a) allusion to the destruction of Vesuvius of 79 CE in Rev 18 (possibly also 9:4-6 and 16:10-11);

    (b) the highly convincing analysis of the seven heads/emperors of the article of Larry Kreitzer, ‘Hadrian and the Nero Redivivus Myth”, ZNW (Zeitschrift fur die Neutestamentliche Wissenschaft) 19 (1988): 92-115 at 93-94, first possibility named, in which Nero is “one of/first” (double meaning) of the heads which is mortally wounded; the three short-reigned emperors must be counted and cannot be skipped; and #6 who “is” is Titus, suggesting a date of final redaction of Rev to ca. Titus/Domitian transition, in which the falsification of prophecy is that #7 Domitian would reign only very briefly before eschatological Nero #8 appears.

    And (c) Revelation reflects a later development of the Nero myth in which an earlier simple-survival/hiding/return belief re Nero is replaced by a resurrected eschatological Nero paralleling Jesus Christ’s death and eschatological coming in mirror image in Rev. The eschatological Nero coming back to life from hell reflects later development rather than instantaneous or the same as the earlier simple earthly survival/return of Nero (the argument for this Nero myth development in the same article).

    Then as for Rev 11 and 12 and the falsified 42 month periods, consider that the earlier suggestion of Clarke Owens above has it in principle right: speaking of Rev 11, the present time of that oracle (in its original source) is ca. early/mid 70 just before the 42 months end, putting the start of the count retroactively in late 66. Similarly with Rev 12 in which that oracle is also from ca. 70 just before its 3-1/2 years ends, retroactively started late 66 (the “flight to Pella”, etc. aftermath of execution of Menahem of late 66, which I incidentally think may show up in Acts as the death of Stephen which is followed in Acts by a major persecution and flight from Jerusalem, just different story and legend versions of the same originating contexts, out of chronological order in Acts–digression).

    As for the falsification of Rev 11 and 12 in what was prophesied to happen at their endpoints, that is in genre just like the failed features of the Olivet prophecy in the synoptic gospels, which do not mean Matt, Mk, Luke et al are all pre-70 simply because some prophecies in oracles cited therein failed to come to pass. Note that Christians today, 2000 years later, will include as sources in modern evangelical tracts the same failed prophecies from 70 CE long ago, which does not date modern evangelicals to 70 CE on the grounds that that is when the failed prophecy dates the modern evangelical writing. Typically, failed prophecies in sacred texts of old are exegeted as having been fulfilled allegorically or partially in type, still remaining to be fulfilled for real in an extension of the time of the end out to just beyond the present day. There are various exegetical ways by which the devout deal with failures of past inspired prophecy, happens all the time, the specifics of which are neither here nor there apart from the point that they do not necessarily date the writing of later texts making use of such earlier sources, and that is how Revelation should be seen and understood with those Rev 11 and 12 oracles with their time periods. Note that the endpoints of time periods in Rev 11 and 12, as they appear in Revelation, do not foresee the eschatological culmination itself (which is still imminent future from standpoint of Rev), in the form those oracles appear in Rev.

    The two prophets of Rev 11 at the time of the oracle of 70 would likely allude to two contemporary leading figures inspiring the revolt inside Jerusalem under siege, though their identities may be debated or impossible to know. A clue to more precise dating might be that the expectation is of impending and inevitable defeat, instead of foreseen miraculous success of the revolt–this seems to reflect later in the siege than early-stage optimism. The two prophets in the oracle are given consolation though–they are soon about to be hated by all nations and dragged through the streets dead etc. but do not despair, they will be raised back up and taken to heaven, so keep that chin up. For all we know the two prophets could be the two leaders of Jerusalem under siege at that time, now in alliance with one another, if they issued oracles through their own orations (not said by Josephus that that was the case): Simon bar Giora and John of Gischala, this second figure being the likely John of Rev 1:10, the later seer of the letters to the seven churches of Asia Minor and a post-70 Paul’s deep rival in Asia Minor per my line of reconstruction. On the other hand those two prophets of Rev 11 could be other figures forever unnamed and identities unknown to us. There is a line of theory that says Rev has John self-exegeting himself as one of those two prophesying “again” as if he was one, though that is difficult to move beyond conjecture.

    Rev 11:8, “where our Lord was crucified” reads as a later gloss on the oracle, and as for the relationship between Jesus Christ and the imagery in Rev, much of that “Lamb of God” and other eschatological imagery could predate in its origin its identification with Jesus in Rev. Note in the first chapter of GJn the assumption is the narrative character John (the same figure in terms of the text as John of Rev 1:10, the Johannine John of Asia Minor post-70, and implied author of all of the Johannine writings) has an existing belief or oracle of the “Lamb of God” prior to his making the identification of the man Jesus with that eschatological figure. In this picture it is not belief in Jesus which creates that eschatological Lamb of God imagery of John in GJn but rather the imagery already is there, already exists, and the character John of Jn 1 (although few scholars have recognized this, the character John of Jn 1 with which GJn opens speaks with the same voice and language as the implied author of the Gospel because he is the implied author of GJn) innovates in saying “Jesus is the Lamb/Christ/image, etc.” So one should be wary of assuming Revelation in the form in which we see it, a final-form text from late 1st CE at the earliest, establishes a pre-First Revolt date for its Jesus. Anyway, some different perspectives to consider.

    1. I will only comment on one minor point, the 42 months. From Rev. 11.2 it is self-evident that the 42 months of the Romans trampling under the city of Jerusalem and periphery of the temple begins (and not ends) in 70 CE. I see a strong influence from Daniel, where the abomination of desolation is set up midway through the final week. There appear to be two periods of 42 months envisioned in Revelation, the 42 months Judea had already endured (since the start of the Jewish revolt in 66 CE) and the 42 months the temple was predicted to withstand the siege (Rev. 11.1-2) based on the end-time chronology of Daniel.

  22. It is sad that no one seems to have known enough about the book cited by Mark Topliss, above. I went to the link he provided, https://web.archive.org/web/20110207180040/http://www.revorigin.com/ . I did not look carefully, but it does look as if either much of Revelations had been lifted directly from ancient Egypt long before or that there was a standard almost cut-and-paste template available for apocalyptic stuff that came from or had been used in Egypt long before. In other words, it looks as if many detail after detail after detail used long before in Egypt might have been re-used in a highly specific way — provided the book is correct.

    1. My major doubt about the book is not necessarily the claim the the Book of Revelations was derived from Egyptian tradition (although such a thing would need to be demonstrated rather than simply asserted), because cultural borrowings are possible, but rather that the Book of Revelations was inspired by the Tomb of Ramesses VI.

    2. It looks like an interesting read from the perspective of learning more about the language of various symbols and motifs in the Levantine area from ancient times. Parallel images and concepts can often be explained by shared cultural environments and borrowings without requiring direct causal relationships.

      1. Something that hasn’t been noticed or commented on in the secondary literature that I have seen is the heavy indebtedness of both the Olivet Prophecy and Revelation (and a bit of the Hebrew Bible, such as Joel) to Mesopotamian omen literature that read great significance into unusual heavenly and terrestrial phenomena. This was also picked up by the Greeks and Romans, but the Egyptians, not so much.

        1. Russell, you may have missed my earlier query. I’ll copy it here:

          Mark’s Jesus as competitor to Vespasian seems to me to be a more common sense interpretation of the same data.

          One of Valliant/Fahy’s key pointers to the Gospel of Mark suggesting Vespasian is the coming messiah is the prophecy of Mark 13. One might say that if Mark was presenting Jesus as the true messiah and alternative to Vespasian, then he seemed to leave room for readers to interpret Vespasian and Titus as the fulfilment of the Mark 13 prophecy.

          Thoughts? — yours and anyone else’s, too, of course.

          1. Well, I don’t see Vespasian or Titus as present in a positive role in Mark 13 and they are arguably associated with the beast in Revelation, which is quite the opposite of the Valliant/Fahey thesis. I just don’t find it plausible that the Romans contributed to creating another religion that claimed Jesus was Messiah as a way to promote Vespasian as Messiah. Valliant makes the best case possible for such a scenario, but it runs contrary to common sense and lacks a firm basis in Roman studies, by which I mean I don’t see any examples of the Romans having ever done something similar. The two Messianisms are related, I find that quite credible, but the explanation Valliant/Fahey proposes seems unlikely IMHO.

            1. Hi Russell,
              B.J.Incigneri, in The Gospel to the Romans: The Setting and Rhetoric of Mark’s Gospel argues that the two sons of Zebedee, John and James, are modelled on the two sons of Vespasian, Titus and Domitian, since the first share the same ambition of the first places of the second. Hence the irony in Mark would be that, just as the two lestes come to replace James and John (being crucified with Jesus), so they would work as respectively the anti-Titus and the anti-Domitian, hence, by induction, Jesus in their middle would work as the anti-Vespasian. Which means that really the crucifixion is a glorification: Jesus, being crucified, is glorified as and more than Vespasian. And the two thieves are glorified as and more the two other Flavians.

              1. So Incigneri about the Vespasian’s sons as the 2 crucified thieves:

                Schmidt has suggested that the two criminals crucified with Jesus have a parallel with those who share power with the triumphator in Roman triumphs, as they would stand either side of him when he was acclaimed. However, he proposes that the motif in Mark is directed against the “self-divinisation efforts” of Gaius and Nero, as he assumes that Mark wrote during the Neronian persecutions. But Mark’s readers would remember the two who shared the emperor’s glory at the recent triumph—his sons Titus and Domitian—as they read of Jesus the king in his triumph of the cross, with the two ‘co-regents’ on the right and the left. The portrayal of the two criminals with the triumphator not only implies the criminal nature of the Roman rulers, but also alludes to the intrigue within the Flavian family. Moreover, the mocking by the criminals of the “king” (15:32) may echo a public perception in Rome of the attitude of Vespasian’s sons toward their father. (ibid., p. 184)

            2. I feel like those who still try to read something profound into every other line of these texts has a serious disconnect especially if they are querying you for bits of info as an expert.

              https://vridar.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/01/lxx2.jpgw723 If the inception point is a pack of pious fictions and noble lies in circa 270 BCE what does that really mean for all of those swept in what came after? I hope in a hundred years no one is still parsing through Q’s ‘breadcrumbs’ looking for something firm to grasp onto…

              Across the river from me in Dubuque Iowa there is a dog track lately called the Q Casino and the retiring in a few weeks manager is some Puerto Rican wheeler-dealer named Jesus. Oddly no one seems to be coming on packed buses to meet Jesus and crawl around on the floor seeking fresh breadcrumbs. But your saying that Keith Richards is most definitely JFK Jr. gives me hope for a good laugh in the weeks and months ahead if we can avoid a second Oklahoma City bombing or a string of school board meeting massacres.

        2. As for the Mark 13 prophecy, I cannot understand how such a prophecy could have been written soon after 70 on the usual understanding that it is referencing a visible coming of Jesus from heaven. Nor would it make sense, in my mind at least, why anyone would preserve such a prophecy if it had been written just prior to 70 — at least not without some redaction to “explain it away”. (V&F, of course, see the prophecy as a prediction of Vespasian/Titus.)

          But OT prophecies depicted the collapse of kingdoms/cities in metaphors of falling stars, darkening sun, etc. An old cosmos/order passed and a new one entered. In Psalms and (iirc) 2 Samuel God is said to come down in the clouds — yet we know that this is not meant to be a literally visible appearance, but it is known by the defeat of the enemy. Am I looking desperate for thinking that the the prophecy was meant to be understood as the kingdom having completely come with the end of the Jerusalem Temple and destruction of the city?

          (the question is not just for Russell, btw)

          1. The destruction per se, is not always said to be the “full” kingdom. Not yet the “full” kingdom on earth to come … after many huge disasters.

            So the apparent death of Jesus, even right after his death, would be 1) regarded as devastating and final by many. But 2) a surviving very faithful minority, would have prophetic support for seeing that as a possibly repairable death; with material resurrection. (Q v Bible).

            3) Another rather sophisticated cadre seems to have thought that the thought or mood or “spirit” of Jesus or like martyrs, lived on in people’s mind or hopes, spirits. (Q v. Bible; Paul).

            The latter would be the kingdom in our “spirit”. And a few philosophical zealots might have believed it – even before – and right after – 70.

            The Bible shows some “angels” etc. suggesting similar things – just days after the death .

            Sorry to keep interpolating generalities, but the larger view might be helpful, in addition to or before, more detailed examples.

          2. A boiling lava lake reportedly existed at al-Safa (SE of Damascus) in the 19th century. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Harrat_al-Sham And in the Hejaz a lava flow came within a few kilometers of Medina in 1256. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Harrat_Rahat

            Being nearby isn’t necessary for large loss of life. Hauynaputina erupted in 1600 in Southern Peru with a global impact. For example triggering a multi-year famine that killed a third of the population in Russia while igniting the long ‘Time of Troubles’. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Russian_famine_of_1601%E2%80%931603

          3. Large groups of people believe and promote the most unbelievable ideas. As a relevant example, America is currently in the grips of an autocratic / neo-fascist movement seeking to undermine American democratic institutions that is fueled in part by a set of viral conspiracy theories known as QAnon. These theories are just plain nuts, but almost one in five Americans (15-20% according to various polls) believe in them, including 56% of Republicans. On Nov. 2, hundreds of QAnon believers gathered at Dealy Plaza, where JFK was shot, to await the predicted appearance of JFK Jr, who died in a 1999 plane crash, but who they believe is still alive. Faced with his non-appearance, some put out the theory that Keith Richards of the Rolling Stones was actually JFK Jr, because it would really be hard to distinguish the two of them in a police lineup, and JFK Jr had such mad guitar skills.

            The point being, that reality and common sense has little to do with what people believe. Although QAnon originated in American fringe theories, one can point to substantial evidence that Russian internet trolls picked up and amplified the QAnon theories and helped make them uber-popular (the same was they amplified anti-Vaxxer theories and other potentially divisive topics in 2016 in order to polarize America on multiple fronts). Outside interference aside, America is fertile ground for such theories, and we have members of Congress elected to office for supporting QAnon lunacy. Ultimately, this might be a significant factor in the failure of American democracy that is currently threatening us here in the states. My point being that unbelievable theories of stunning irrationality spring up and proliferate and fuel mass movements in human societies of every era, down to the present. Bringing the discussion around to the point in question, I don’t see an intrinsic unlikelihood to the idea of Jesus in heaven returning with conquering angelic armies being promoted among its believers before, during or even after the Jewish War, despite being fundamentally fantastic and flying in the face of then-current events.

            1. Astral omens and numerology strike me as total bullshit. But then again I in my own life have witnessed up close and seen from afar that people believe in all kinds of crap.

              What is your opinion of the idea that the authors of the NT were carefully counting their words and the syllables in their words?

              Numerical Literary Techniques in John: The Fourth Evangelist’s Use of Numbers of Words and Syllables Maarten J.J. Menken 1985

              Joost Smit Sibinga [1927-2012] was described as a ‘precise and intricate scholar’ fascinated with counting syllables and words as a tool for analyzing the literary structure of biblical texts. https://www.bsw.org/filologia-neotestamentaria/vol-23-2010/from-anointing-to-arrest-some-observations-on-the-composition-of-mark-14-1-52/627/article-p18.html

              Not sure what to make of this stuff… whether there is something to it or not.

              1. If you are referring to alleged astrotheology in the gospels, I agree, but what I am referring to is the ancient practice of sky-watching and interpreting omens, which is something entirely different.

                I consider all numerological studies of the Hebrew and Christian Bibles absurd in light of the fact that we don’t possess definitive uncorrupted Hebrew or Greek texts with which to begin such a study.

            2. So very much of religion down through the ages was little more than a tool for controlling and manipulating large groups of people. Alongside theistic religions in the last century or two came other more civil religions of another sort… The Soviet Union may be gone now but Chekists and Chekism are very much alive and well. [ https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Chekist & https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chekism for those unaware.]

              ‘The ideology of “Chekists” is “Nashism (“ours-ism”), the selective application of rights”, he said [Andrei Illarionov].’ The selective application rights sounds like something Trumpy people would embrace without a second thought.

              Chekists perceive themselves as a ruling class, with political powers transferred from one generation to another. According to a former FSB general, “A Chekist is a breed. … A good KGB heritage—a father or grandfather, say, who worked for the service—is highly valued by today’s siloviki. Marriages between siloviki clans are also encouraged”.

              The head of the Russian Drug Enforcement Administration Viktor Cherkesov said that all Russian siloviks must act as a united front: “We [Chekists] must stay together. We did not rush to power, we did not wish to appropriate the role of the ruling class. But the history commanded so that the weight of sustaining the Russian statehood fell to the large extent on our shoulders… There were no alternatives”. Cherkesov also emphasized the importance of Chekism as a “hook” that keeps the entire country from falling apart: “Falling into the abyss the post-Soviet society caught the Chekist hook. And hanged on it.”

              Political scientist Yevgenia Albats found such attitudes deplorable: “Throughout the country, without investigation or trial, the Chekists [of an earlier generation] raged. They tortured old men and raped schoolgirls and killed parents before the eyes of their children. They impaled people, beat them with an iron glove, put wet leather ‘crowns’ on their heads, buried them alive, locked them in cells where the floor was covered with corpses. Amazing, isn’t it that today’s agents do not blanch to call themselves Chekists, and proudly claim Dzerzhinsky’s legacy?”

              The following is a cut-and-paste from a longer series of comments I made on the blog of a heterodox economist:

              For those most likely to be long term unemployed the progression [Pareto’s 80/20 distributions] extends a bit further out into tails: 80, 64, 51.2 & 20, 4, 0.8 For other sociological problems this is even more prescient in terms of crime and/or prosecutorial resources. That concentrated 4% would be what some call “high social cost individuals”.

              Łobaczewski adopted the term “ponerology”, which is derived from the Greek word poneros, from the branch of theology dealing with the study of evil. Psychopathy is present in about 1% of the population (varies by society with some lower and others higher) but the really sordid stuff sucking up 51.2% of time and resources at the office of the Cook County State’s Attorney is very likely wrought by a percolated eight tenths of a percent of the population.

              Given Gap Psychology who do think might be over represented in the top 0.1% and/or in the halls of Congress?

              “A form of government interesting to ponerologists is one they have called pathocracy, in which individuals with personality disorders (especially psychopathy) occupy positions of power and influence. The result is a totalitarian system characterized by a government turned against its own people. A pathocracy may emerge when a society is insufficiently guarded against the typical and inevitable minority of such abnormal pathology, which Łobaczewski asserts is caused by biology or genetics. He argues that in such cases these individuals infiltrate an institution or state, prevailing moral values are perverted into their opposite, and a coded language like Orwell’s doublethink circulates into the mainstream, using paralogic and paramoralism in place of genuine logic and morality.”

              “There are various identifiable stages of pathocracy described by Łobaczewski. Ultimately, each pathocracy is foredoomed because the root of healthy social morality, according to Łobaczewski, is contained in the congenital instinctive infrastructure in the vast majority of the population. While some in the normal population are more susceptible to pathocratic influence, and become its lackeys, the majority instinctively resist.”

          1. Exactly, along with Graeco-Roman literature on the same topics, notably Cicero’s De Divinatione. Josephus mentions astral omens in conjunction with the Jewish War. Luke’s “when you see armies surrounding Jerusalem” may indeed allude to the sky-omen of armies in the sky that Josephus reported. I am not sure in what specific social circles these exotic interpretive arts were perpetuated among the Jews and Christians, but their predictions were credited by many in the excited atmosphere of the Jewish War.

            1. An example of a simple omen still in circulation today: https://www.loc.gov/everyday-mysteries/meteorology-climatology/item/is-the-old-adage-red-sky-at-night-sailors-delight-red-sky-in-morning-sailors-warning-true-or-is-it-just-an-old-wives-tale/

              Hermann Hunger writing in the journal of the International Astronomical Union in 2011: http://articles.adsabs.harvard.edu//full/2011IAUS..260…62H/0000062.000.html Gives examples of some ‘celestial omens’.

              1. Weather signs were a topic of many learned treatises in antiquity, one famously by Aristotle. This area of study was initiated by Mesopotamian inductive observational science. Prophetic omens were a different class, but also traced to Mesopotamian inductive science, with observations like “earthquake, revolt in the northlands” that connected natural events and other things.

  23. Possibly useful in deciphering Mark 13 may be the following quote from Incigneri’s book above:

    The stronger man of v. 27 is the one that had been predicted by John the Baptist (1:7)—Jesus will “plunder” (and presumably carry off) the strong man’s possessions (oikia). “The Strong Man” is an accurate description of Vespasian, who took power by force, held Rome to ransom by stopping the Egyptian grain supply and, with the help of his son, holds on the reigns of power tightly. Indeed, if “the strong man” was meant to refer to Satan, the reference is odd, as he is not driven out or defeated, as is usual. Rather, Jesus will leave “The Strong Man” in his doomed divided house, and will take away his “possessions.” This seems to be an implied promise, similar to the one in 13:27, that Jesus would vindicate and gather the elect.

    Hence, the divine revenge prophetized in Mark 13 will assume the form of the conversion to Christianity of the greatest nuber of gentiles, a conversion seen as a spoliation of the “possessions” of the Roman Emperor.

  24. Neil wrote:
    Am I looking desperate for thinking that the the prophecy was meant to be understood as the kingdom having completely come with the end of the Jerusalem Temple and destruction of the city?
    No, I think that is correct. If Mark and congregation were in Rome, realistically, this adjustment to circumstances makes sense. I think it helped push some of them to reconceptualizing their heavenly Jesus as the national messiah.

    But there are two “buts.” But, Mark 13 has been edited, and some of the verses that comprise a ‘prophecy of destruction; have been added by an editor (I suspect prior to 132, though). And but, the ‘coming in the clouds’ prophecy is Mark’s literary device that foreshadows a later event in the text.

    1. And but, the ‘coming in the clouds’ prophecy is Mark’s literary device that foreshadows a later event in the text.

      Can you elaborate, please?

      1. In The Two Gospels of Mark: Performance and Text, I proposed that the original ending of the play that was narratized in the Gospel of Mark was an ascension scene that cleared the stage. Peter, released by the cock crow from the Satanic spell imposed on him just before the Recognition, says something (I won’t say what here) that creates confusion and panic among the slaves with him in the courtyard, the masses, and the Judean Council. They all run around and exit (as do Peter, his followers, Pilate and the soldiers). Meanwhile, the Jesus actor has ascended (using a stage crane) and is visible to the audience above the stage, as is the empty tomb. That is Jesus ‘coming in the clouds of heaven’. This staging references the Transfiguration, where the Jesus actor is actually behind a physical cloud.

        The empty tomb scene is consistent with this scene, but only references some of its elements. I don’t know why the empty tomb scene was written to replace Mark’s original ascension scene. Maybe the editor felt that the scene made Jesus seem too much a competitor to an emperor.

        1. Thanks Danila. Many of us here agree that Mark is mostly a Greek play.

          But I’ve always (mistakenly?) read 1) the empty tomb ending (Mark 16.1-8? NRSV), as the original. Then 2) the shorter final ending (added to 16.8?) as next; the very very short description of a resurrection (NRSV) as a first add on.

          And only 3) finally, later in time, the far longer resurrection ending, 16.9-19. As the final rather ghostly and churchy – and spookily theatrical ghostlike (?) – final addition at the end. (Where interpolations, editorial /clerical /scribal additions, are very likely to appear).

          To be sure, there is also a very modern reason for choosing the empty tomb as final, today at least. As it in fact is in some modern editions: with no resurrection; only an empty tomb; and everyone “afraid”. That is far more modern; with no easy miracle (resurrection). And it has far more existential angst and nihilism

          So is ending at Mark 18.8 a modern editorial decision? Cutting out the resurrection in Mark at least. In many modern Bibles.

          Or was it say, also, the original, rational Roman, soldierly account? Any alleged Jesus was dead; end of story. Roman pragmatism and modern science both, oddly agreeing on that.

          Sorry if all this seems jumbled; it is really tough to sort it all out. Too many editorial hands? Including modern ones, in modern Bibles.

          1. I start from the assumption that Mark wrote a play. After some considerable thought, I decided that it was performed, and the actors spoke their own lines, and it was performed on a stage (not read aloud). In the book I explain why I came to these conclusions.
            That is where I begin. I assume that Mark wrote a play that was performed by actors on a stage. And that Mark was a competent playwright. My thinking about Mark 16 is based on those assumptions.
            The empty tomb scene, if it’s the last scene in a play, as you say fits modern tastes. But the scene can’t be original because it doesn’t clear the stage. All the actors are still standing there looking at the audience. That was just not an acceptable way to end a tragedy, and everyone–even believers–agrees that the material after Gethesemane is tragic. I call it a mini-tragedy. A tragedy ended with the exit of the Chorus (here, multitudes).
            We really don’t have to get bogged down in theology. The empty tomb scene structurally doesn’t work. I proposed something that does work, an ascension scene. And my proposal is telescoped into what the angel describes to the women: “He has risen, he is not here; see the place where they laid him.”
            Another reason to think that there was an ascension scene is that I have come up with one that economically uses Peter-in-the-courtyard, whose presence on stage is otherwise inexplicable.
            Why were these alternative endings written? I propose that the first editor of GMark knew it had been a play, and preserved that stageability when he wrote new scenes. I suspect that this first editor wrote the empty tomb scene, but by its very inappropriateness within a play, signaled to the reader that it was not the original scene.
            As I said above, possibly the ascension scene was removed because it somehow used language or imagery that mimicked language or imagery used by an emperor.
            I don’t know when or why these other endings were created. I am reluctant to even think about it, because I would want to know the oldest text sources of these endings (which codex etc). I doubt that there was a straight line of a copy of GMark sitting in the RCC headquarters in Rome, getting repeated makeovers, and therefore we can trace the theological development of the popes. These endings obviously solved problems for their creators, wherever they were.

            Needless to say my assumptions that GMark was originally a performed play, etc. may be wrong. I just want to be clear that that is my starting point.
            I hope this answers your question.

    2. The notorious 1) supernatural physical resurrection that comprises one optional ending of Mark, also looks, infamously, like a later addition; possibly therefore even by Rome, or the Eastern church.

      2) Coming in the clouds may also be a characterization of trying to see the future; and/or the coming of a rather hazy spirit kingdom. Possibly foreshadowing or belatedly acknowleging the second major apologetic for the death of a hoped for savior, and a physical Jewish kingdom: the coming at least of a mental “kingdom” in the mind or imagination or spirit or “hope”s (of say, Paul)?

      1. Great discussion by everyone here; including notable published scholars. Anyone interested in the ending/The End of Mark, might consult specifically the NRSV. Which in effect lays out four known endings to Mark.

        Each of the contrasting 4 endings in effect, has been declared uniquely holy, conclusive, authoritative, and presented as final, by one Bible edition/editor or another.

        My position is probably that given this variability, and inconsistency, we are in effect urged to pick our favorite. Or the one ending that seems to fit what we individually – or collectively – feel or know today. While looking forward to still more solid historical data, one day.

        For present purposes, I favor the rather abrupt, modern, 70 AD-like end; the one without a resurrection or ascension. Though I do intuitively recognize the more theatrically and scientifically pleasant aspect to an ascension into the clouds/heavens.

  25. I was thinking about the weird specificity of Rev. 11:2:

    (11:1) I was given a reed like a measuring rod and was told, “Go and measure the temple of God and the altar, with its worshipers. (2) But exclude the outer court; do not measure it, because it has been given to the Gentiles. They will trample on the holy city for 42 months.

    Why did John, the author of Revelation, believe the Romans would not violate the sanctity of the temple, but conduct the siege only as far as the outer Court of the Gentiles?

    On rereading Josephus’ account of the Jewish War, I ran across a passage about the ceasing of the daily sacrifice, around the start of August 70 CE (which Daniel associates with the defiling of the temple by abomination of desolation). Titus addressed those besieged within the temple, using Josephus as translator, asking John of Gischala to fight the Romans outside the temple, because the Romans sought not to defile the temple with bloodshed, and “that if he [John] was obsessed by a criminal passion for battle, he was at liberty to come out with as many as he chose and fight, without involving the city and the sanctuary in his own ruin; but that he should no longer pollute the Holy Place nor sin against God; and that he had his [Titus’] permission to perform the interrupted sacrifices with the help of such Jews as he might select” (War 6.95).

    According to the Roman propaganda broadcast by Josephus, Titus sought to preserve the sanctity of the temple and wanted the sacrifices to continue: it was John and the rebels inside the temple who were defiling it with bloodshed. That is, the rebels were themselves responsible for the abomination of desolation and the cessation of the daily sacrifices (cf. 6.99-102).

    Later Titus again addresses the besieged through Josephus, “ ‘Was it not you, most abominable wretches, who placed this balustrade (cf. 5.193) before the sanctuary? Was it not you that ranged along it those slabs, engraved in Greek characters and in our own, proclaiming that none may pass the barrier? And did we not permit you to put to death any who passed it, even were he a Roman?… I call the gods of my fathers to witness and any deity that once watched over this place–for now I believe there is none–I call my army, the Jews within my lines, and you yourselves to witness that it is not I who force you to pollute these precincts. Exchange the arena of conflict for another and not a Roman shall approach or insult your holy places; nay, I will preserve the temple for you, even against your will.’ This message from Caesar being transmitted through Josephus…” (War 6.124-128).

    So in other words the Romans themselves said, through Josephus, that they would remain in the outer Court of the Gentiles and allow the inner temple to be inviolate. It is now my opinion that the official Roman propaganda being disseminated by Josephus among the Jews (arguably throughout the Roman empire) was utilized as a major source of information for John, the author of the Apocalypse, about the besieged temple. This (mis)information is why John believed the inner temple would not be violated, only the outer Court of the Gentiles (Rev. 11:1-2).

    Josephus also knew about deceivers and false prophets inside the temple and may have been John’s source on prophets active within the temple grounds (i.e. the two witnesses) in Revelation 11. The false prophets of Josephus promised God’s imminent divine deliverance (War 6.285-286). This was also John’s position, and it seems likely to me that John countered Josephus by accusing Josephus of being a (the) false prophet in Revelation, the lackey of the Beast.

    In effect Josephus becomes a source simultaneously used and contravened by John in Revelation. I’m fairly certain this is a new thesis. Would that I had time to turn it into a journal article.

    1. Sounds great; I encourage you to write it. In the meantime, hopefully this note will stand.

      I hope Neil and friends make arrangements, naming – and funding – his blog in his will. To keep this blog fully recorded and still going AD; like Larry Hurtado’s family. That way his blog gets the literary equivalent of eternal life. Or anyway, extended survival.

    2. What would you say in response to one who said: But by the time John wrote the vision of Rev. 11:1-2 news would have arrived (only weeks later) that the inner court and entire temple had been destroyed ?

      Have you read Daniel Schwartz, Reading the First Century? I am thinking here of pages 137-139 where he posits that Josephus’s claim that Titus did not want to destroy the temple was theologically motivated (to demonstrate that it was God’s will that the temple be destroyed, not man’s) and that there is reason to believe that Tacitus had originally stated that Titus did order the temple to be razed.

  26. Revelation 11 took what, maybe an hour to write? But you make a valid point, there was a relatively small window of time, a matter of weeks, before the prophecy would have been invalidated by the arrival of news from Judea. An interesting analogy would be Daniel, the Animal Apocalypse of 1 Enoch, and the War Scroll, all of which were written in summer of 163 BCE in anticipation of the apocalyptic Maccabean battle with Lysias, predicting that with divine help Judah Maccabee would win. The Animal Apocalypse was updated from an earlier version, and Daniel had last-minute updates right down to the wire. The prophecies of all three texts soon failed badly, yet all three texts survived, and Daniel was even canonized! I think Revelation, another crisis apocalypse, was also quickly circulated and was valued and survived despite the fall of Jerusalem and the non-arrival of Jesus and his angelic forces.

    Schwartz discussed whether Titus opposed or ordered the destruction of the temple, and observed that Josephus made the claim that it was “God himself who, due to the Jews sins, destroyed the Temple.” In his speech to the rebels, Josephus did in fact draw an analogy with the destruction of the First Temple by Nebuchadnezzar, which similarly implemented God’s will. This was the theological/biblical model Josephus used to explain the fall of Jerusalem, which went hand in hand with his endorsement of Vespasian as God’s Messiah ordained to rule the world.

    A few observations. First, this is not simple theology, it was propaganda. Titus used Josephus as his propagandist to try to convince the Jews to surrender and to make Roman rule acceptable to the Jews, which Josephus skillfully did by repurposing biblical historical and prophetic texts to discredit the rebels and to show divine support for Vespasian, Titus, and the Roman forces. God was on Rome’s side and the rebels were the guilty parties in God’s eyes.

    Second, Titus had two messages, one private for his Roman soldiers and colleagues, the other public for the Jews. His message to the Jews that Titus wanted to surrender was that he wanted to preserve their holy temple. But it is quite likely that he fully intended to massacre the last hold-outs in the temple and probably destroy the temple itself, despite his propagandistic statements to the Jews to the contrary through his spokesperson Josephus.

    Third, the cessation of the daily sacrifice in the temple would have caused an immediate real-time shockwave among all Jews who heard this disturbing news, in light of Daniel’s prophecy. (“We are living in the end times, brethren!”) Josephus clearly understood this, given that his speech practically referenced the prophecy, pointing out that the abominations of the Jewish rebels within the temple were responsible for the cessation of the daily sacrifices, and that Titus to the contrary wanted the sacrifices restored. I think we see an echo of this in Rev. 11.8 in which the bodies of the two prophets lie unburied in the streets of the great city [Jerusalem], “which spiritually is called Sodom and Egypt.” That characterization, a bit dissonant for the Apocalypse (the great city elsewhere is Babylon/Rome), sounds like it may have originated with Josephus, who described the occupation of the temple by the rebel forces as an abominable desecration that would lead to Jerusalem’s destruction (much like God rained destruction on wicked Sodom and Gomorrah and plagues on the wicked Egyptians). That is, John’s perception of conditions inside Jerusalem and its temple was flavored or colored by the Roman propaganda broadcast to the Jewish world through Josephus.

    1. Josephus consistently degrades the rebels as reckless criminals in his histories. Thus it is strange to find Josephus appointed the rebel commander for the northern part of the Jewish kingdom. The situation reminds one of a famous quote from Vladimir Lenin, “The best way to control the opposition is to lead it ourselves.” Josephus and the chief priests in Jerusalem were skilled political strategists clearly ahead of their time.

      One is left to wonder whether General Josephus ben Matthias fought and commanded his troops to the fullest extent of his abilities while defending Galilee against the Romans, a war he counseled against and opposing an enemy he later joined. Had Josephus given his allegiance to the Romans even before his capture at Jotapata? The only evidence we have comes from the writings of Josephus himself.

      The relation between Matthias the father of Josephus and high priest Matthias ben Theophilus strikes one as a Clark Kent / Superman situation. Has anyone ever seen them together in the same room? Josephus proclaims he was from a family of high priests. Further as a young man he was given important assignments by the chief priests in Jerusalem. It appears that his brother was also made a rebel commander. These facts indicate that the father of Josephus was a very important figure in Jerusalem, certainly a chief priest and perhaps a high priest. When telling the story of the great Jewish revolt in ‘Antiquities’, Josephus mentions high priest Matthias ben Theophilus but not his father. When telling the story of the great Jewish revolt in ‘Jewish Wars’, Josephus mentions his father but not high priest Matthias ben Theophilus. The high priest MbT was mentioned in ‘Antiquities’ but disappeared from ‘Jewish Wars’ because he was referred to in that work as “the father of Josephus”. Could it be they were one in the same person?

      From one of the more coherent sections in something a trial lawyer in St. Louis named Joseph Raymond wrote a decade ago. Religion is mostly just another political tool… viewing this stuff through a political lens seems much more interesting than the religious one with the https://rationalwiki.org/wiki/Kookmobile drivers trying to divine something of profound meaning from every third line.

  27. A special thank you to Russell and Greg for setting out some of those thoughts on Revelation and the relevance they have for the wider question of Christian origins. It will take me a little while to digest it all but it’s all set out here for ready reference as we think it through and new ideas arise.

  28. Hi Russell,
    why do you write :

    The idea that Jesus was a teacher is a late idea peculiar to the later gospels and is not reflected in Revelation

    …when Josephus describes the various messianists, Theudas, “Egyptian”, Judas the Galilean, Atronges, etc, as clearly preachers. Isn’t a preacher a “teacher” of some kind? If the historical Jesus fits that pattern (= seditious figures waiting for an earthly theocracy), shouldn’t we expect from him also a some form of propaganda, of anti-Roman message, making virtually him de facto a preacher who addresses masses ? Isn’t the label of ‘teacher’ a way to mitigate the aggressive features of a preacher ?
    Thanks in advance for any answer,

    1. I would view Jesus as “teacher” to mean someone bringing wisdom, enlightenment, and ethical truths on a theoretical level. It is common to portray Jesus as a teacher, like a sort of wandering Cynic philosopher. The gospels indeed promote this sort of image with their referring to Jesus “teaching” others and others as his “disciples”.

      This is different from Jesus as a Messianic rabble-rouser gaining followers, gathering armies in the wilderness. Under this interpretation the speeches of Jesus did not consist of teachings but a military-political call to action, although there may have been a back-and-forth on peripheral subjects with opponents and hecklers.

      The figures in Josephus as a rule are best called prophets, in the language of that day; preacher is I think a (Christian) modernism. Note that OT prophets (especially Moses) were men and women of action as much or more than of words (until you get to the written prophets, which give a false impression of prophets as word-smiths).

      1. So, to draw a parallel with Japanese Pure Land Buddhism, you would regard Jesus as being more of a leader of the Ikkō-ikki (militant Japanese Pure Land Buddhists, belonging to the Jōdo Shinshū sect of Japanese Pure Land Buddhism, who created a Pure Land Buddhist theocracy within parts of Japan between 1488–1582) than a Shinran (founder of the Jōdo Shinshū sect of Japanese Pure Land Buddhism) or even a Rennyo (leader of the Jōdo Shinshū sect of Japanese Pure Land Buddhism who strove to lead the sect even while not endorsing the Ikkō-ikki’s violence and radicalism).

      2. Jesus is like an Anna Anderson claiming to be Grand Duchess Anastasia or one of the False Dmitry pretenders who having gathered a rabble of followers around themselves marched on Moscow during the Time of Troubles. Why couldn’t the historical person at the core of all this have been some delusional schizo who really did believe themselves to be the rightful king of Judea?

        1. Although Anna Anderson really was crazy, the false Dmitries, as far as I am aware, were sane scammers. That having been said, if you have any evidence otherwise, then I would love to read it.

          Furthermore, your main point is true. Cf., also, John Deydras, who claimed to be the real King Edward II (while King Edward II was still alive) and later claimed that his pet cat, whom he said was the devil in disguise, had led him astray one day while he was walking across Christchurch Meadows.

          1. I have heard it said that sometimes real life can be stranger than fiction. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/King_Jesushttps://www.geni.com/projects/Jesus-of-Nazareth-Speculative-Genealogy/28076 I favor the core of the whole story being tied up in the messy power politics and palace coups of a client kingdom on an empire’s eastern periphery. The mystical religious components are largely secondary to the initial kernel of what happened… they grew up later as wheeler dealer scammers like Paul attempted to salvage the zealous remnants of a political movement to act as a vehicle for their own schemes. Usurpation of something that was not initially their own as a means to some end. The same still happens today with groups or movements being taken over and redirected over time through careful infiltration. So much of religion is just another way to control people… islam for example literally means ‘submission’ and being made to mumble words five times a day in a face down ass up position is surely submissive behavior dreamed up by a totalitarian dominant. The act of enforcing that is pure power politics.

  29. If of interest, Georgios Sidirountios’s thesis about the Zealot Early Christianity is available here. He does interesting points about the diffuse anti-hellenism found in the early Christian texts.

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