Search Results for: einhorn


Lena Einhorn discusses her Shift in Time hypothesis

by Neil Godfrey

For earlier discussions on this blog of Lena’s argument see:



Richard Carrier & Lena Einhorn Discuss Shift in Time

by Neil Godfrey

Followers of Richard Carrier’s blog will have known of Richard Carrier’s review earlier this month of A Shift in Time by Lena Einhorn:

Lena Einhorn on the Claudian Christ Theory

I am glad I did not mention it here at the time now because the page became more interesting in the following week with an exchange between Carrier and Einhorn. Lena Einhorn points out that she feels  her “hypothesis itself is largely left unexplored” in Carrier’s review.

Lena further draws attention to the apparent irony of her work gaining attention by those who favour the Christ Myth theory since her own argument is that Jesus did exist, only not in the time setting found in the gospels and not as the sort of person portrayed in them either. This raises the problematic question of what we mean by “Jesus” whenever the question of his historicity surfaces. We need to have some idea of how to recognize the person we are looking for and the only guides to help us are the canonical gospels, yet we know the gospels portray a theological construct and not a historical figure! It is inevitable, therefore, that most people who look for the historical Jesus do look for someone resembling the mythical Jesus of the gospel narratives. Lena Einhorn breaks this circularity by identifying reasons to believe that the core events and persons found in the gospels match those of a couple of decades later according to the writings of the Jewish historian Josephus.

Carrier stresses his own conviction that the evidence is best explained without any need to postulate a historical Jesus at all. Einhorn replies:

The problem in comparing a hypothesis such as mine (“Jesus existed, albeit in another time, and this is the evidence”) with one suggesting he never existed, is that the latter is built largely on Evidence of absence. What I do in my book is line up evidence for his presence in the 50s (and for the New Testament as a historical text of the Jewish rebellion, lying hidden underneath a literary/devotional/supernatural narrative). It would have been a somewhat knotty exercise for me to challenge Evidence of presence with Evidence of absence (“what I just showed you never existed”).

She adds further explanation:

No, the time shift theory is not built only on the numerous similarities between Jesus and the messianic leader Josephus calls “the Egyptian” (the large following, the prophecy of the tearing down of the walls of Jerusalem, the betrayal to the authorities, the violent reaction of the authorities, the pivotal events on the Mount of Olives, previous time spent in Egypt, and in the wilderness). It is built on a slew of additional parallels between the Gospels and Acts, on the one hand, and events Josephus places in the 40s and 50s CE:

*The activity of robbers, lestai

*Known crucifixions of Jews

*An insurrection (Mark 15:7; Luke 23:19)

*A messianic leader gathering people on the Jordan river, who is subsequently decapitated by the authorities

*An attack on a man named Stephanos (Stephen) on a road outside Jerusalem

*Two co-reigning high priests

*A conflict or war between Galileans and Samaritans, limited in time

*Galileans on their way to Jerusalem for the festivals being stopped in a Samaritan village (Luke 9:51-56)

*A conflict between the Roman procurator and the Jewish king (Luke 23:12)

*A Jewish king with a prominent and influential wife (Matthew 27:19)

*A procurator slaughtering Galileans (Luke 13:1)

*A procurator and a Jewish king sharing jurisdiction over Galilee (Luke 23:6-7)

*Likely noms de guerre such as “the Zealot”, “Boanerges”, “Bariona”, or “Iscariot”

*The death of Theudas (Acts 5:36)

*A messianic leader who had previously spent time in Egypt, and in the wilderness, who prophesies about tearing down the walls of Jerusalem, and who is defeated by the authorities on the Mount of Olives

The 20s and 30s are – not only according to Tacitus, but also according to Josephus – a period when no robbers, no crucifixions, and no Jewish messianic leaders are reported. To name only a few discrepancies.

But most of it is there in the late 40s and 50s.

One of the illustrations Lena Einhorn posts in her reply to Richard Carrier:

Carrier subsequently responds to Einhorn’s argument that “the coincident character of the patterns” points to specific intent by the authors of the gospels. read more »


Hermann Detering’s Review of Lena Einhorn’s “Shift in Time” Part 2

by Neil Godfrey

Rene Salm translates from the German:



A new review of Einhorn’s Shift In Time

by Neil Godfrey

Herman Detering has begun a series of posts reviewing Lena Einhorn’s work at Mythicist Papers.




Another Lena Einhorn Observation — Anachronistic Crucifixions in the Gospels

by Neil Godfrey
Josephus and the war

In my previous post I said I was wanting to explore in depth some of Lena Einhorn’s observations. One that I consider most striking concerns the climactic crucifixion itself. We are so used to hearing that crucifixion was a very common method of execution for rebels in Roman times that we don’t pause to ask questions when we read about Pilate’s crucifixion of Jesus along with two “thieves” or “robbers” (translated “bandits” in the NRSV):

Mark 15:27 — And with him they crucified two bandits [λῃστάς – lestes], one on his right and one on his left.

Matthew 27:38 — Then two bandits [λῃσταί – lestai] were crucified with him, one on his right and one on his left.

In the Gospel of John we find Barabbas, the one freed in exchange for Jesus, described the same way:

John 18:40 — They shouted in reply, “Not this man, but Barabbas!” Now Barabbas was a bandit [λῃστής – lestes].

Now λῃστής (lestes) is the Greek word for “robber”, but the historian who has left us an account of the Jewish War with Rome and the many decades prior to that event, Josephus, uses λῃσταί (the plural of λῃστής) to describe anti-Roman Jewish rebels. Josephus was writing around the same period that many scholars believe the evangelists were composing the our canonical gospels.

The gospel use of “lestai/rebels” to describe Barabbas and the two who were crucified with Jesus is not new. It is found in the scholarly literature readily enough.

Einhorn takes the next step and examines the times Josephus tells us the lestai were active. I have summed up Einhorn’s observations in the following table.

Accounts of “lestai” activity by Josephus

63-37 BCE 15 times Beginning of Roman occupation
37-4 BCE 22 times
4 BCE – 6 CE 6 times Crushing of Census revolt
6-44 CE No references of lestai activity Time of Jesus
44-48 CE 2 times Return of direct Roman rule after death of Agrippa I
48-59 CE 20 times
59-66 CE 21 times Lead up to the war with Rome, 66-70/73 CE

There is an exception that Einhorn points out:

The only hint about activity during Jesus’s time is a sentence in War, saying that “Eleazar the arch-robber,” active in the 50s, together with his associates “had ravaged the country for twenty years together.” In Antiquities, however, it only says that Eleazar “had many years made his abode in the mountains.” (A Shift In Time, p. 45)

At this point I am reminded of my earlier posts, Did Josephus Fabricate the Origins of the Jewish Rebellion Against Rome? and Josephus Scapegoats Judas the Galilean for the War?. In those posts we saw reasons to think that Josephus in Antiquities was compelled to revise certain aspects of his earlier account (War), presumably under pressure from other Jews in Rome who took umbrage at his earlier portrayals of other parties involved. Recall Josephus himself was a less than admirable self-serving traitor. If so, when thinking about Einhorn’s comparison in the quotation above we have a little more reason to give more weight to the Antiquities reference.

None of this data proves there was no “lestai” activity in the time of Jesus, but compare this datum with other general background information. read more »


Review: A Shift In Time, Lena Einhorn. A new hypothesis on the origin of the Jesus narrative.

by Neil Godfrey

Nytt-bokomslagI recently completed reading A Shift in Time: How Historical Documents Reveal the Surprising Truth About Jesus by Lena Einhorn.

Lena Einhorn proposes a radical rethink of Christian origins and does so in a welcome methodical and understated manner. Far from being a sensationalist weaving of data into a mesmerizing filigree of yet another conspiracy or gnostic theory, Einhorn lays out clearly and concisely the evidence that she believes has been overlooked and on the whole leaves it to readers to draw their own conclusions, keeping her own conclusions largely in the background. By the time I had finished the book I found myself thinking that if there is evidence for the Jesus of the gospels being based on a historical person it could well emerge through an argument like Einhorn’s. While I am not ready to embrace her own conclusions (I think much more data needs to be thrown into the mix for a full explanation) her book nonetheless raises very interesting questions.

The dust jacket blurb includes the line by Professor Philip R. Davies, “this book should make us think.” And it does.

Anyone familiar with the Gospels and Acts who has out of curiosity also read Josephus has surely been struck by periodic reminders of what we find in the New Testament narratives and thought, “Interesting, but of course it can be nothing more than coincidence because the Jesus story happened much earlier.” By taking these “coincidental” allusions and analysing them more systematically in comparison with the Gospels and Acts, Einhorn asks us to think through their implications and address new questions.

Einhorn’s thesis is that many allusions and apparent anomalies in the Gospels and Acts coincide with and find historical setting in the events and personalities in the two decades leading up to the Jewish War with Rome. That is, about twenty years after the New Testament historical setting of the Jesus narrative. Sometimes further support for this “shift in time” comes from other sources (both Christian and Jewish) outside the writings of Josephus.

Einhorn has a gift for presenting complex data in a clear and comprehensible way for anyone not familiar with the history of the various regions around Syria-Palestine in the first century, or with the fundamentals of historical Jesus scholarship. Her frequent bar chart and table illustrations assist the reader in keeping track of the multiple parallels between the history found in Josephus and the Gospel-Acts accounts and their respective chronologies. Each brief chapter expounds a single thematic parallel.

An example

An example of the parallels discussed: In the Gospels-Acts narrative we find reference to the death of Theudas preceding the death of Jesus; allusions to activity of rebel-bandits and the crucifixions of them; a hostile Galilean-Samaritan rift; an attack on an otherwise unknown Stephen that precipitates a new wave of widespread violence; two contemporaneous high priests, conflict between the Roman procurator and a Jewish king; a Roman slaughter of Galileans; a visit of a messianic figure to the Mount of Olives just prior to the violent dispersal of his following . . . . None of these phenomena are testified beyond the New Testament to have been found in the time of Jesus and early Church (around the year 30 CE), yet curiously all are found recorded by Josephus about twenty years later. As one who has also tried to draw attention to the absence of evidence for popular messianic fervor in early first century Judea I found Einhorn’s observations very attractive.

Are they real?

Are the parallels “real”? Einhorn herself raises this question several times but has enough respect for readers to allow them to decide. She is content to point out the unusual concentration of them within a narrow time frame and it is this detail that cries out for an explanation. We know coincidences do happen, sometimes quite complex ones. Recall the parallels between the Lincoln and Kennedy assassinations even allowing for some exaggeration and invalid data. We do have a natural tendency to find patterns “even where none exist”. At the same time scholars studying the Gospels in relation to the wider literature of the day (e.g. Dale Allison Jr, Andrew Clark, Dennis MacDonald, Thomas Brodie are just a few examples whose work has been discussed on this blog) have established criteria for identifying “real parallels”. Two criteria that regularly appear in such lists are the density of the parallels and their ability to generate new understanding of how and why the text may have come about. This is where the strength of the parallels in Einhorn’s thesis lies.

How to test the thesis?

read more »



by Neil Godfrey

Vridar’s first post on a Hermann Detering work was in February 2007:

Little Apocalypse and the Bar Kochba Revolt

The next “mention” of Hermann Detering was subtle. It was hidden as a link in the last sentence — But that leads us to a new set of questions about dates and identities that will have to be addressed another time — of the post When did Peter first see the resurrected Jesus?

In May, 2011 I posted:

Another Possible Interpolation Conceded by Historicists of Old (and a question of heavenly trees)

A point I made in the main post was supplemented in the comments with further detail.

In January 2012 I included Hermann Detering as a scholar who proposed a different view from the one I was posting:

Couchoud on Acts of the Apostles

In the same month and year we looked at the relationship between Detering, Couchoud’s and Parvus’s views:

Paul’s Letter to the Romans – the creation of the canonical edition according to Couchoud

A day later we continued the same discussion:

Epistle to the Galatians — Couchoud’s view

February 2012 we discussed John the Baptist and included Hermann Detering’s views:

Was Jesus “John the Baptist”?

July 2012 Detering was listed as presenting a significant explanation that was ignored by a “hostile witness”:

Reply to Hoffmann’s “On Not Explaining ‘Born of a Woman’”

August 2012, we pointed out a significant point about Marcion’s editions of Paul’s letters that had been pointed out by Hermann Detering:

Is Paul the Beloved Disciple?

I included a Hermann Detering title in an “interesting books” list, November 2012:

Some interesting book titles

September 2013, Roger Parvus acknowledged his debt to Hermann Detering:

A Simonian Origin for Christianity, Part 1

April 2014, Hermann Detering was added to the team of witnesses refuting aspersions cast by Maurice Casey:

Maurice Casey’s Failure to Research Mythicists — More Evidence

June, 2014, I was able to link Hermann Detering’s view of a passage in Romans to an early attempt to refute the Christ Myth theory:

“It is absurd to suggest. . . . ” (A rare bird among the anti-mythicists)

February 2015, an occasion to revise the same point:

Jesus the Seed of David: One More Case for Interpolation

March 2015: Notes on a Facebook post by Hermann Detering about a “coming out” clergyman

Mythicism Making Christianity More Meaningful

A link to Rene Salm’s translation of a review by Hermann Detering, May 2016

Hermann Detering’s Review of Lena Einhorn’s “Shift in Time” Part 2

Another link to a translation of Rene Salm’s page of another review by Hermann Detering: June 2016

Hermann Detering, Richard Carrier and the Apostle Paul

A few days later another link to Rene Salm’s site in which Hermann Detering argues strongly against Richard Carrier:

Hermann Detering confronts Richard Carrier—Part 3

October 2017, our first signs of what appears to have been Hermann Detering’s last major work:

The Gnostic Interpretation of the Exodus and the Beginnings of the Joshua/Jesus Cult — Hermann Detering

April 2018, continuing after a tense wait . . .

Hermann Detering on the place of Gnosticism and Buddhism in Jesus Cult Origins

Gnostic Interpretation of Exodus and Beginnings of the Joshua/Jesus Cult

Crossing the water: Comparing Buddhist and Christian imagery

August 2018, a commentary by Rene Salm on “The Gnostic Meaning of the Exodus and the Beginning of the Joshua/Jesus Cult” —

Hermann Detering and Robert M. Price

September 2018, an updated revision of one of his works:

New (revised) paper by Hermann Detering: Odes of Solomon and Basilides

October 2018 I discovered Hermann Detering along with Parvus and Price had not been alone on a critical point:

Enticed by a great quote & surprised by an unexpected “mythicist”

Same month, another commentary by Rene Salm:

The Detering Commentaries: Christian Origins, Joshua, Gnosticism and Buddhism

Later in October 2018, Detering is listed with 12 other witnesses standing against another facile claim:

A constructive exchange with Tim O’Neill on the question of the historicity of Jesus

Response #1 to the Non Sequitur program with Tim O’Neill: MOTIVES

Last mention, November 2018, a month after he died, it appears

Mythicist Papers: Resources for the Study of Christian Origins – Update

And in case you missed it, earlier today:

Very sad news


I corresponded from time to time with him. He once sent me a book and I returned the favour with a token gift. He was always a part of my thinking on any biblical or Christian origin question. And of course through our personal correspondence I often wondered and thought about what he was like, and, from all I could tell, I liked him a lot. I’ll miss him.




Time Shift Hypothesis Presentation

by Neil Godfrey

Youtube now has a PowerPoint presentation of Lena Einhorn’s hypothesis on Jesus and the Egyptian Prophet/the Shift hypothesis.

It is a somewhat longer version (45 min. ) of the presentation Lena made at the Society of Biblical Literature Annual Meeting in 2012. I like the idea of visual presentations over text posts. I might do something similar one day.

We have posted a few times on Lena’s Time Shift hypothesis on Vridar.





by Neil Godfrey

Some of my recent reading . . . .

On an alternative historical Jesus

— Once more from Lena Einhorn, an interview with Mythicist Milwaukee: Who Was Jesus? w/ Lena Einhorn


On a tiresome Christian (or any religious) trope

— From Valerie Tarico: Why It’s Time to Call Bullshit on Prayer Requests


More to discover in Qumran

— From Haarez: New Dead Sea Scrolls Fragments Found in Judean Desert


Identifying those time-wasting tricks

— From Jeremy Sherman @ Alternet: People Who Will Say Anything to Win an Argument: The art of deciding when you’re talking to a brick wall (See how many academics, not just lay folk, you find deploying these tactics)


And something important

— From Will McCants: Donald Trump’s sharp contrast from Obama and Bush on Islam has serious implication (Sam Harris tweeted that he found this piece “obscurantist”. He appears to have forgotten some of the moves towards understanding the issues in his book co-authored with Maajid Nawaz.)


Updated: I forgot to include this one earlier. . . .

Mehdi Hasan in The Guardian: We accept that Russian bombs can provoke a terror backlash. Ours can too



Questioning Claims about Messianic Anticipations among Judeans of the Early First Century

by Neil Godfrey

Let’s take another set of references Richard Carrier cites to support the claim

That Jewish expectations of some kind of messiah in the early Roman Empire were widespread, influential, and very diverse . . . has been well established by experts on ancient messianism.15
Carrier 2014, p. 67
Qumran caves

I am referencing Carrier because he sets out to explicitly justify this belief that is widely expressed in both scholarly and popular publications about Christian origins, but the view is widespread among scholars and lay people alike.

With respect to the above quotation I have no problem with the statement that messianic views were very diverse in the Second Temple period. But let’s look at the works listed in footnote #15. I set them out as a numbered list:

  1. Stanley Porter (ed.), The Messiah in the Old and New Testaments (Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans, 2007);
  2. Markus Bockmuehl and James Carleton Paget (eds.), Redemption and Resistance: The Messianic Hopes of Jews and Christians in Antiquity (New York: T. & T. Clark, 2007);
  3. Magnus Zetterholm (ed.), The Messiah in Early Judaism and Christianity (Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 2007);
  4. Charlesworth, James. et al. (eds.). Qumran-Messianism: Studies on the Messianic Expectations in the Dead Sea Scrolls (Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck. 1998);
  5. Craig Evans and Peter Flint (eds.), Eschatology, Messianism, and the Dead Sea Scrolls (Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans, 1997);
  6. James Charlesworth (ed.), The Messiah: Developments in Earliest Judaism and Christianity (Minneapolis, MN: Fortress Press, 1992);
  7. Jacob Neusner, Messiah in Context: Israel ‘s History and Destiny in Formative Judaism (Philadelphia, PA: Fortress Press, 1984);
  8. and Jacob Neusner et al. (eds.), Judaisms and their Messiahs at the Turn of the Christian Era (New York: Cambridge University Press, 1987).
  9. See also C. A. Evans, ‘Messianism’, in Dictionary of New Testament Background (ed. Craig Evans and Stanley Porter; Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2000), pp. 698-707.

Let’s start.

#1 — Stanley Porter (ed.), The Messiah in the Old and New Testaments (Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans, 2007)

Two chapters are of relevance: “The Messiah in the Qumran Communities” by Al Wolters and “Messianic Ideas in the Apocalyptic and Related Literature of Early Judaism” by Loren T. Stuckenbruck. Neither discusses popular messianic expectations in the Judea of early first century CE. Both discuss the various nuances of what a Messiah meant to various authors but there is no discussion of time-tables or expectations that such figures were eagerly expected to appear at any particular time.

Al Wolters writes

I am struck by a number of points that call for comment. The first is how sparse and ambiguous the evidence is. The Qumran Scrolls speak very little of an eschatological messiah — even of a messianic figure broadly defined — and when they do it is always incidental to other concerns and usually subject to multiple interpretations. In short, it is clear that messianic expectation was not central to the religious worldview of the Qumran sectarians, and what little such expectation there was is hard to pin down. (p. 80 — bolded emphasis is my own in all quotations)

read more »


On Parallels

by Neil Godfrey
Image from a related post: When is a parallel a real parallel?

How do we determine the best way to interpret patterns and parallels between the Gospels and other literature?

Here is one parallel that someone asks us to consider:

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

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

I am not convinced for the following reasons:

There is no overlapping of theme or idea. The context of the passage in Luke tells us that the idea of “fishing for men” is to “catch” disciples, converts. The metaphor originates in Jeremiah where it means judgment:

“But now I will send for many fishermen,” declares the LORD, “and they will catch them. After that I will send for many hunters, and they will hunt them down on every mountain and hill and from the crevices of the rocks. My eyes are on all their ways; they are not hidden from me, nor is their sin concealed from my eyes. — Jeremiah 16;16-17

So the evangelist (author of the Gospel) has inverted the metaphor from one of condemnation to one of salvation.

The Josephus passage makes no reference to “fishing” and any normal reading of the slaughter would scarcely bring to mind images of “fishing”.

The reason I am persuaded that the Lukan saying is taken from Jeremiah and not from Josephus is that it matches a core criterion often listed as a vital indicator of a genuine literary relationship:

Dennis MacDonald calls it “interpretability”. I have summarized the idea as:

interpretability or intelligibility — the capacity of the original text to make sense of some detail in the new work (e.g. Is there some detail or theme in a story that has mystified modern readers over why it was included, with a satisfactory explanation appearing if the author knew another text where the same detail made more sense? Sometimes borrowing from another text may produce awkwardness or some incoherence in order to fit it in the new work.)

Andrew Clark calls it “parallel theme” and says it adds meat to other indications of borrowing:

parallel theme – this cannot stand on its own but adds strength where it exists to other criteria

Thomas Brodie also uses the term “interpretability” — “or the intelligibility of the differences”

Differences will sometimes be very great, but what counts is whether the differences can be explained in a way that deepens our understanding of the new text. Sometimes such explanations can reveal new surprises about the nature of the reworked document.

One may object that the proposed parallel between Luke and Josephus in the above example may not work on its own but does carry weight when set in the context of a number of other parallels. My objection to this argument is that there is no reason to see the massacre in the sea as a parallel at all no matter what setting it appears in.

Is it possible that the evangelist has used both Jeremiah and Josephus? Anything is possible, but since the argument for the use of Jeremiah as the source is entirely sufficient there is no need to involve the Josephan passage.

But what about the following parallels between Theudas (in Josephus) and John the Baptist, this time from Lena Einhorn: read more »


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

by Neil Godfrey
Christ on the Mount of Olives: Andrea Mantegna, 1459
Christ on the Mount of Olives: Andrea Mantegna, 1459

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

War of the Jews 2.261–263

Then about fifteen years later Josephus wrote:

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

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

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

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

Antiquities of the Jews 20.169–172

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

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

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

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

There are two links. read more »


Jesus Mythicism: An Introduction by Minas Papageorgiou

by Neil Godfrey

jesus-mythicismMinas Papageorgiou, freelance journalist,  managing director of a Greek publishing group and a founding member of the Hellenic Society of Metaphysics (, has made his Greek language survey of a wide range of contemporary Jesus mythicist views available in English as an ebook on Amazon. And it’s not exorbitantly priced, either.

Jesus Mythicism: An Introduction was originally written for readers in the religiously conservative nation of Greece where the very existence of the mythicist debate has scarcely registered, both historically and today. The book is an attempt to introduce Greeks to a wide range of Jesus mythicist ideas currently being published and discussed in the English speaking world and now that it is available in English it is also an interesting introduction for English speakers.  

Before the main interviews Papageorgiou covers some of the more general or foundational arguments of mythicists such as those addressing the earliest references to Christianity in the non-Christian sources. He segues from this discussion into details of René Salm‘s arguments about the archaeological evidence for the inhabitation of Nazareth in the early first century, Raglan’s list of “hero archetypes” found among mythological figures, and material such as supposed ancient correspondence about Jesus that has been long understood to be forgeries. Some of this was new to me.

The first interview is with Gerd Lüdemann, the scholar who suffered professionally for publishing a work calling into question the authenticity of many of the sayings of Jesus. Lüdermann also expresses his views on the Christ Myth hypothesis, too. (Hint: I’ve updated the Who’s Who list of mythicists and mythicist agnostics/sympathizers.)

While I have been interested in a few Jesus myth arguments (in particular Brodie’s, Carrier’s, Doherty’s) and have known something of a tiny handful of others (e.g. Atwill’s, Murdock’s), there are others I knew about only vaguely or not at all.

Minas Papageorgiou from the start seeks to reassure readers that mythicism is not opposed to spirituality or faith but that it even has the potential to “enhance the essential messages of faith” by separating myth from historical truth. He points out that the first “Jesus mythicists” appeared with the emergence of the Enlightenment in the eighteenth century but that this intellectual movement largely bypassed Greece. Only two groups, he writes, have anything to fear from mythicism: members of organized clergy and some of the academic guild who have made their reputations and livings through supporting the traditional Christian narrative.

This publication is not a critical evaluation of the various mythicist ideas but leaves the reader to judge and follow up what he or she personally prefers. The result is that some readers with a more serious scholarly interest may be dismayed to see the views of Carrier and Atwill given much the same billing. Carrier has criticized Atwill’s approach as decidedly unscholarly and fallacious and the two are scarcely comparable in terms of intellectual rigour. However, it is good to see Papageorgiou has given his interview with Richard Carrier priority.

In his introduction to Richard Carrier he writes: read more »


Jesus Mythicism: An Introduction

by Neil Godfrey

An English language version of Minas Papageorgiou’s book is due out in March 2015. (It has only been available in Greek until now.) You can find details on a dedicated Facebook page.


The range of names interviewed and types of mythicism represented in the book is very wide indeed. Here is the back cover blurb with some of the details: read more »