Another Angle on Paul

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by Neil Godfrey

Greg Doudna once again challenges us to think outside the box (recall his thoughts on the John the Baptist passage in Josephus and related discussion): this time, regarding Paul. See his conference presentation online at:

Note his second part of the title. His thoughts, as I understand that title, are an invitation to dig further into the possibility.

The proposal here is that the Christian Paul and Apollonius reflect independent tradition trajectories from a single original figure, i.e. that Paul was Apollonius.

GD takes up the suggestion that Saul the Herodian in Josephus is our Paul: see Robert Eisenman’s Paul as Herodian. (GD earlier opened up the questioning of the conventional date for Paul on the basis of his letters — though other evidence allows for a far wider set of options for the time of Paul’s activity) He notes the presence of three famous anti-Roman namesakes in Jerusalem: Simon bar Giora, John bar Sosa and James bar Sosa. Were the different visits of Paul to Jerusalem that we read about in Galatians and Acts actually different versions of the one visit? Is it possible that Joses (=Joseph) Barnabas in Acts is Josephus, the Jew who remained observant to Judaism while his companion Saul the Herodian rejected Jewish observance?

The original gospel of Paul was analogous to the views set forth by Josephus in his post-70 writings concerning the positive role of Rome in the divine economy in dealing with the Jewish rebels’ bloody defilement of the temple in Jerusalem. As Josephus told it, the Roman destruction was a purification of the Jewish temple cult, a temple which Josephus portrayed as defiled by the revolutionaries who brought divine wrath upon the Jewish nation as a result of their misdeeds, wrath carried out through the divine agency of the Romans, the severity and scale of the disaster and atrocities squarely the fault of the rebels who could have avoided it by surrendering earlier.

This was the ideology of Josephus in interpretation of the disasters which befell the Jews in 70 even as Josephus in Rome continued to be observant and sought in his writings to represent the Jewish people favorably to the educated world through his writing of Jewish history. Josephus’s ideology or “gospel” is startlingly similar to the ideology or gospel of Paul in the epistle to the Romans and in the other epistles as well. The writings of Josephus and Paul reflect the same basic ideology or lines of interpretation in response to 70, though Paul went beyond Josephus in arguing creatively—on the basis of Jewish scripture and in the name of a Jewish messiah—that Jewish religion and practice were superceded and now obsolete.

And to come back to the title of the article…..

This teaching of Paul with respect to Jewish religion and ideology in a post-70 context may be understood as in keeping with, a special case of, Apollonius’s rejection of sacrifices and cult practices in Apollonius’s view of true religion.

I simply have no idea where to place the canonical letters attributed to Paul in the history of the early church. I have no idea who the person behind the name of “Paul” was — and that name pops up in all sorts of places with all sorts of (contradictory) beliefs and practices. But I am increasingly partial to the idea that Christianity as we might recognize it as something with a distinct identity as a “movement” did not begin until after the Jewish War of 66-70/73 CE. This possibility makes me open to exploring ideas such as those raised by Greg Doudna.



Jesus’ Unheroic Moment in Gethsemane – and a return to Vridar/Vardis Fisher

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by Neil Godfrey

Some regular readers will know that I am in the process of translating Bruno Bauer’s criticism of the gospels (scandalous in his time!) into English. I recently completed his discussion of Jesus “soul struggle” in Gethsemane and thought one of his observations worth bringing to more general notice here.

In sum, Bauer notes that heroic figures face their decisive challenges with resolve. They do not collapse into a struggle over whether they have what it takes to endure the fate that awaits them.

The Agony in the Garden, by George Richmond (Wikimedia)

Here is his gist:

Bruno Bauer begins by noting that the author of the Gospel of Luke made a few clumsy adjustments as he attempted to introduce an angel to stand beside Jesus to the scene he was borrowing from Mark and Matthew. In the earlier gospels Jesus prayed three times but how could that happen if an angel — taken, Bauer suggests, from the original temptation scenes where angels in Mark and Matthew came to assist Jesus (but not in Luke’s temptation scene) — came to give him the power and assurance to go through with the coming torment? If the angel appeared at the time of Jesus’ first prayer, then there would be no need for any more prayers, or else the angel’s presence had not been effective.

or should the angel come only at the third attempt, it would be too late, namely, arriving at the moment when the struggle, according to the original account [in Mark and Matthew], was already decided without the intervention of heavenly miraculous power. (Bauer, 214/215)

No, so Luke had Jesus pray just the once. And that once was with the angel so once was enough.

But then Luke ran into other difficulties. He had to find a way, following his earlier gospel narratives, to have Jesus reprimand the disciples for sleeping while he prayed. The trouble Luke failed to notice — at least till after the ink was dried — was that in the earlier gospels Jesus had instructed the disciples to watch with him but they fell asleep on that watch, and hence deserved a rebuke, while Luke had left out that command of Jesus and so there was no justification for his rebuke to the disciples for sleeping. Indeed, Luke even says the disciples fell asleep “because of their sorrow”, but as Bruno Bauer rightly remarks, sorrow keeps one awake; it does not induce sleep. (In the other gospels I notice that it is Jesus who is said to be full of sorrow.)

Further, one little detail I had failed to notice after all these years: BB points out that in Luke Jesus “is taken” to a remote place to pray. In Mark and Matthew he walks off to a secluded spot but in Luke, no, rather…

And he came out, and went, as he was wont, to the mount of Olives; and his disciples also followed him.
And when he was at the place, he said unto them [not only to three of them as in Mark and Matthew], Pray that ye enter not into temptation.
And he was withdrawn from them about a stone’s cast, and kneeled down, and prayed (Luke 22:39-41)

I am reminded of Mark’s introduction where after the baptism of Jesus he writes,

And immediately the Spirit driveth him into the wilderness . . . (Mark 1:12)

Image from A Theology in Tension

But let’s cut to the chase, to the point that pulled me up enough to make me rethink everything. BB notices Mark harking back to the prayer of the righteous one in the Psalms:

 I am overcome by the blow of your hand. (Ps. 39:10)

Like all great and sublime moments, it is made up of three parts:

like everything great and sublime, was divided in its course and development by the number three (Bauer, 216/217)

But heroes, as we know from all our other stories, are not like that . . .

on the contrary, we only consider historical fighters great and worthy of respect when they endure their sufferings with calmness due to the self-assurance of their new content and legitimacy, thereby proving that they stand over the external power and authority of the worldly state they fight against, just as they know they have overcome it in the content of their self-consciousness. (Bauer, 216/217)

Why yes, I thought. I have had my moments of despair, my gethsemanes, as have we all. But gasping and crying for help to do what we want is not like simply standing up, taking courage, and going out and facing what we have to face.

I thought of other heroes surely known to any ancient writer of Greek. Hector in the Iliad. He knew he was doomed to die, and others pleaded with him not to go out and face Achilles. They were like Peter imploring Jesus at Mount Hermon not to go to Jerusalem. Jesus then was like the heroic Hector and said, Stand aside, Satan! I must go!

Achilles defeats Hector, Rubens (Wikimedia)

‘Hector!’ the old man called, stretching out his arms to him in piteous appeal. I beg you, my dear son, not to stand up to that man alone and unsupported. You are courting defeat and death at his hands. He is far stronger than you, and he is savage. . . . So come inside the walls, my child, to be the saviour of Troy and the Trojans; and do not throw away your own dear life to give a triumph to the son of Peleus. Have pity too on me, your poor father, who is still able to feel. . . .

As he came to an end, Priam plucked at his grey locks and tore the hair from his head; but he failed to shake Hector’s resolution. And now his mother in her turn began to wail and weep. Thrusting her dress aside, she exposed one of her breasts in her other hand and implored him, with the tears running down her cheeks. ‘Hector, my child,’ she cried, ‘have some regard for this, and pity me. How often have I given you this breast and soothed you with its milk! Bear in mind those days, dear child. Deal with your enemy from within the walls, and do not go out to meet that man in single combat. He is a savage; and you need not think that, if he kills you, I shall lay you on a bier and weep for you, my own, my darling boy; nor will your richly dowered wife . . . .

Thus they appealed in tears to their dear son. But all their entreaties were wasted on Hector, who stuck to his post and let the monstrous Achilles approach him. As a mountain snake, who is maddened by the poisonous herbs he has swallowed, allows a man to come up to the lair where he lies coiled, and watches him with a baleful glitter in his eye, Hector stood firm and unflinching, with his glittering shield supported by an outwork of the wall. But he was none the less appalled, and groaning at his plight he took counsel with his indomitable soul. He thought: ‘If I retire behind the gate and wall, Polydamas will be the first to cast it in my teeth that, in this last night of disaster when the great Achilles came to life, I did not take his advice and order a withdrawal into the city, as I certainly ought to have done. . . . But it will be said, and then I shall know that it would have been a far better thing for me to stand up to Achilles, and either kill him and come home alive or myself die gloriously in front of Troy. (Iliad, XXII)

Hector actually did run from Achilles at first, but finally found his resolve and when he saw he was about to die, said:

Alas! So the gods did beckon me to my death! . . . Death is no longer far away; he is staring me in the face and there is no escaping him. Zeus and his Archer Son must long have been resolved on this, for-all their goodwill and the help they gave me. So now I meet my doom. Let me at least sell my life dearly and have a not inglorious end, after some feat of arms that shall come to the ears of generations still unborn.’ (Iliad, XXII)

We have other instances of steel resolve: Socrates does not weep and plead for strength to drink the hemlock. Rather, he consoles his weeping friends. Antigone stood hard as iron against Creon and it is impossible to imagine her weeping for strength and courage to endure her fate.

When I think back on the references to Jesus outside the gospels I don’t recall any notion of “soul struggle”. Paul simply says that Jesus took on a lowly position to die. That was his purpose for taking on flesh. Soul-struggle is completely alien to this biblical concept.

The gospels changed all that.

Jesus had long since predicted his end, and now it was necessary for him, once and for all and perfectly beyond doubt, to express his submission. He could no longer just speak, prophesy, he had to feel, mourn, be anxious, become powerless, in order to reconcile himself with his task through his inner struggle. Precisely the religious interest that determined the initial structure and the enduring foundation of the gospel story, and which made a great and dignified struggle, that is, a struggle in which the opposing forces also appear great and significant, impossible, had to result in the end in the fact that Jesus’ struggle against the opposing powers coincides with his inner soul-suffering. Other historical or epic heroes do not need such a struggle with their weakness, nor can they even collapse in themselves when the tragic conclusion arrives, because they have proven themselves in the struggle with great and significant historical powers and have worked through the shortcomings of their personal one-sidedness even in this struggle. (Bauer, 217)

Jesus’ struggle in Gethsemane is not heroic. It is a struggle to obliterate his own self before an idea of a god who demands his non-existence.

As Eric Fromm wrote long back:

[Man] projects the best he has_onto God and impoverishes himself. . . . The more he praises God the emptier he becomes. The emptier he becomes the more sinful he feels. The more sinful he feels the more he praises God — and the less he is able to regain himself. (quoted by Fisher, Orphans of Gethsemane II, 432)

Vardis Fisher spoke of a “lunacy of prayer and tears and pleading” which makes one feel emptier and more sinful, and the more sinful and empty one feels, the harder one prays!

Volume 2 of Orphans of Gethsemane — the biography that led me to name this blog Vridar, the central figure of Vardis Fisher’s “autobiographical” novel.

Jesus had knelt alone to pray: . . . in all the gethsemanes in myth and legend, where all the father-fearing and father-hating Jewish.and Christian sons had knelt in supplication, and were still kneeling, and would kneel, as long as the Desert-Yahweh was driven into their child-souls. (Fisher, Orphans of Gethsemane II, 479)

Think of this:

The pathetic wretched lonely orphan, going off alone into his gethsemane (gath shēmāni, the oil press) to pray, knowing it to be the will of his father that he should die! In his death he would appease the father’s wrath, who was on the point of killing all his children!(Fisher, Orphans of Gethsemane II, 480)

Vridar spent hours talking aloud to himself about “Jesus,” . . . saying, “He was the immolated son — this is the myth of the complete submission of the son to the father with the son-symbol standing for all Christians who submit. He was the orphan: this is the myth of the one who had no love, and went alone into his gethsemane to pray, and prepare to die, because his father willed it. This is the myth of the lonely lost man naked before the universe, and before death and time and all his enemies. (Fisher, Orphans of Gethsemane II, 482)

Bruno Bauer: Book 6, Ch 4 – Jesus’ Soul Struggle in Gethsemane

Fisher, Vardis. The Great Confession: Orphans of Gethsemane, V2. Testament of Man 13. New York: Pyramid, 1960.

Homer. The Iliad. Translated by Émile Victor Rieu. Harmondsworth, Middlesex: Penguin, 1950.


From Humble Beginnings: A Tale of Two Divinities — Jesus and Apollo

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by Neil Godfrey

Apollo with bow and lyre. National Gallery of Art

Have you heard it declared that no-one would make up a story about Jesus coming from such a nothing-back-of-the-woods place as Nazareth? No, no, the argument goes — if anyone were to make up a story about Jesus they would have impressed their readers by having him hail from some place of renown.

I don’t recall off-hand what led me into reading an obscure French work from 1927 about Pythagoras, but that work in turn led me to once again pick up the Homeric Hymns of all things. This time a light flashed above my head: I found myself confusing the goddess Leto with Mary urgently looking for a place to give birth to her child and finding nowhere … except a humble stable! And Nazareth — how could a messiah possibly come from Nazareth?

“Nazareth! Can anything good come from there?” Nathanael asked. — John 1:46

Now before you roll your eyes a second time let me explain. I am NOT saying that the story of Jesus’s humble origins are a direct, intertextual creation inspired or shaped by the Homeric Hymn to Apollo. What I am saying is that the idea of a great divinity having a very humble earthly beginning was a motif, a trope, a concept, an idea that was part of the cache of ancient Greco-Roman culture. (A quick persusal of some chapters in The Reception of the Homeric Hymns did persuade me, though, that the hymns were certainly part of the collective knowledge of literate persons in the first and second centuries of this era.)

Let’s have a look at the passage of interest in Hymn 3, to Apollo, as translated by Michael Crudden.

The hymns begins with a picture of all gods on Olympus rising up in awe when the great Apollo enters, all except for his father and mother, Zeus and Leto.

According to Greek mythology, Apollo was born on this tiny island in the Cyclades archipelago. Apollo’s sanctuary attracted pilgrims from all over Greece and Delos was a prosperous trading port. (Unesco)

Next, Leto is called the blessed one for having given birth to such a mighty son. Apollo is called a “joy for mortals”. The poet ponders where to begin his tale and decides to sing of the time of Apollo’s birth on the island of Delos.

The time came for Leto to give birth and we read of her traveling a great distance to find the appropriate place, at least a welcoming one. She traversed populous Crete, and the countryside of Athens, and Aigina’s isle . . . .

And, famed for its ships, Euboia; Aigai, Eiresiai too,
And, near to the sea, Peparethos; Athos the Thracian height,
And the topmost peaks of Pelion; Samos the Thracian isle,
And the shadowy mountains of Ida; Skyros, Phokaia too,
The precipitous mount of Autokane; Imbros the firm-founded isle,
And mist-enshrouded Lemnos; holy Lesbos—the seat
Of Makar, Aiolos’ son—and Khios that lies in the sea,
Sleekest of isles; rugged Mimas, and Korykos’ topmost peaks;
Dazzling Klaros too, and sheer Aisagea mount;
Samos with plentiful waters, precipitous Mykale’s peaks;
Miletos, Kos—the city where dwell the Meropes folk —
Precipitous Knidos too, and Karpathos swept by the wind;
Naxos, and also Paros, and rocky Rhenaia too

Over so great a distance in labour with him who shoots
From afar [Apollo was an archer] went Leto, seeking whether amongst these lands
There was any that would be willing to furnish her son with a home.

But there was no room at the inn….

But they trembled much in fear, and not one dared, despite
Her rich soil, to welcome Phoibos [a name for Apollo], until queenly Leto set foot
Upon Delos

The rich and famous chose not to welcome Leto and her son-to-be.

Delos https://www.greece-is.com/rise-fall-delos-visible-island/

Leto plaintively asked Delos….

and, questioning her, gave voice to winged words:
‘Delos, would you be willing to be the seat of my son,
Of Phoibos Apollo, and furnish him with a rich shrine on your ground?’

But how did Delos compare with all the above that Leto had just passed through? Leto said to Delos,

you’ll not, I think, abound in cattle or flocks, nor will you bear corn or grow an abundance of trees.

And Delos knew it well enough and said in reply:

‘Most glorious Leto, daughter of mighty Koios, I would
With pleasure welcome the birth of the lord who shoots from afar,
For in truth in men’s ears I am of dreadfully grim repute,
But in this way might gain great honour.

Delos’s inferiority complex over her stony, barren appearance got the upper hand, though, so she poured out her fear:

. . . . this dreadful fear
Pervades my mind and heart, that, when [Apollo] first sees the Sun’s light,
Holding the isle in dishonour—since stony indeed is my ground—
He may with his feet overturn me and thrust me under the sea.
There always great waves without ceasing over my head will break,
While he will reach some land that is pleasing to him . . .
. . . But the many-footed beasts
And black seals will make their lairs upon me, homes that will be
Secure for lack of people.

Fear not, Leto reassured Delos. First, with the promise that Delos would become the most famed central sanctuary in all of the Greek world and beyond:

. . . But if you possess a shrine
Of Apollo who works from afar, all humans, assembling here,
Will bring you their hecatombs: vast beyond telling the steam of fat

Will always be shooting upward, and those who possess you you’ll feed
From a foreigner’s hand, since there is no richness beneath your soil.’

And finally with an oath declared that Delos would have honour above all other isles.

‘Now let the Earth know this, and also broad Heaven above,
And the down-dripping water of Styx, which is the blessed gods’
Greatest and most dread oath: here Phoibos will always have

His fragrant altar and precinct, and will honour you above all.’

Isodore Levy, author of that book on the influence of the legend of Pythagoras in the Greek and Jewish worlds, was drawing quite different links with the gospels, between Apollo and Jesus. But they can wait for another post. I found the above of most interest for now. Never again will I allow anyone to get away with trying to say that Jesus really did have to come from Nazareth because no-one would make up a story about a god-man (or a figure near enough) coming from some place of no reputation.

Crudden, Michael. The Homeric Hymns. Oxford ; New York: Oxford University Press, 2001.


A Simonian Origin for Christianity? — A few more thoughts

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by Roger Parvus

A Few More Thoughts

A few months back Neil asked me if I had any further thoughts regarding my hypothesis about a Simonian origin for Christianity. In March of 2019 I had revised it. I am happy to report that four years later I am still quite comfortable with the revision. To me it seems to best account for the many peculiarities of the New Testament and plausibly explains much that can be gleaned from the writings of the earliest heresy hunters. This post is just a summary with a few additional thoughts on the subject.

All Things to All

As I laid out in the series, the Simonians appear to have regularly co-opted the religious beliefs of others and twisted them to serve their own purposes. This involved injecting the object of their belief—Simon Megas—into the storylines of other religions and giving him the prominent role therein. Thus they, for example, made Zeus into Simon under another name, and Athena into Helen, Simon’s consort. Similarly, they apparently claimed that their Simon was the mysterious figure whose hidden descent was described in the Vision of Isaiah (chapters 6-11 of the Ascension of Isaiah).  The main storyline of that writing is an ancient one, going back, as Richard Carrier points out in his book On the Historicity of Jesus (pp. 45-47), to the Descent of Inanna. But it too was modified along Simonian lines and dragged into their orbit. Most famously, the Simonians claimed that a Jesus who had suffered in Judaea was actually their unrecognized Simon. In short, the Simonians seem to have wanted their Simon to be all things to all men, and so gave free rein to their proclivity for appropriating and modifying the beliefs of everyone else.

The Gospel of Proto-Mark

CORRECTION — I originally posted an outdated view of Roger Parvus’s here — RP will be clarifying his thoughts, soon – Neil (9th March 2023).

I think that our Gospel according to Mark is a proto-orthodox reworking of an earlier Simonian version in which the Simonians were again doing their thing. I will refer to the earlier text as Proto-Mark, although it may well be the same as the mysterious Secret Mark. In it the beliefs of a group of Jews about a crucified and supposedly resurrected Jew named Jesus underwent Simonization. If I had to name its author, I would choose Basilides of Alexandria, whom even the heresy hunters acknowledge as the author of an early albeit heretical gospel. He is at the right time, the right place, had the right skills, and–most importantly—had the right mindset: delight in secrecy and enigma. This was the man who, according to Irenaeus, said “Not many can know these [teachings], but one in a thousand, and two in ten thousand,” and “Know everyone, but let none know you.”    

Mark owes its enigmatic nature to Proto-Mark. That is, its Simonian author intended it to be understood only by his fellow Simonians. Its “mysteries” (Mk 4:11) were deliberately hidden from those “outside” (Mk 3:32 & 4:11). The key needed for understanding the text was Simonian belief, and that was disclosed only to the initiated. There was indeed an identification secret in Proto-Mark, but I doubt it was the so-called messianic secret. The correct answer to “Who then is this whom even the wind and seas obey?” (Mk 4:41) is Simon Megas. Only later, after the Bar Kochba revolt, or whenever the proto-orthodox became aware of the text and decided to adopt and sanitize it, was the necessary changeover to a messianic secret made.   

The Pauline Letters

In regard to the Pauline letters: I still see Paul as the author of some original bare-bones letters. The bulk of the letters as we now have them, however, was likely composed by a circle of Saturnilians, a community founded by the Simonian Saturnilus of Antioch. It may even be that much of the material originally had Simon in view, and that Jesus Christ, Christ Jesus, Lord Jesus, and so on were substituted when it was decided to pass the whole off as Pauline. Who was it who combined Paul’s letters with the Simonian material and formed them into a collection? My guess would be Cerdo of Syria “originating from the Simonians” (Irenaeus, Against Heresies, 1,27,1) He is from the neighborhood of Saturnilus and is the earliest figure named in connection with the letter collection. And he it would be who likely brought them to Rome shortly after the end of the Bar Kochba revolt. “Cerdo, who preceded Marcion, also joined the Roman church and declared his faith publicly, in the time of Hyginus… then he went on in this way: at one time teaching in secret, at another declaring his faith publicly, at another he was convicted of mischievous teaching and expelled from the Christian community” (Eusebius, Ecclesiastical History, 4,11).    

Enter the Historical Jesus

Continue reading “A Simonian Origin for Christianity? — A few more thoughts”


How John “Destroyed” Luke with Lazarus!

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by Neil Godfrey

We have seen how the author of

  • the Gospel of Mark rewrote the tradition about the resurrection appearances in Paul’s letter
  • the Gospel of Matthew polemically rewrote Mark to rebrand the disciples
  • the Gospel of Luke polemically rewrote Matthew and Mark

But they can’t compete the way the author of the Gospel of John put Luke to shame …. according to Bruno Bauer.

In Luke 7:11-17 we read how Jesus just happened to be coming into the village of Nain when he encountered a funeral procession for a young man, but what moved Jesus to compassion was the (presumably supernatural) knowledge that his mother was now without a male to support her. So Jesus stops the procession and yells to the corpse to Rise up!

“Jesus raises the son of the Window of Nain” Matthias Gerung, 1500-1570

No doubt there is in the scholarly literature acknowledgement of the possibility that the author of the Gospel of John had Luke’s little story in mind when he developed his account of the resurrection of Lazarus. But I have just translated Bruno Bauer’s thoughts on how the Lazarus episode in the Gospel of John is a direct rebuff to the comparatively very poor “widow of Nain” anecdote.

Luke has Jesus raise a man who has just died and whose corpse is probably still warm as it is carried to the graveyard? Ha! John will have Jesus do a really serious miracle and raise one who has been dead four days!

The one who allowed the young man of Nain to be revived when he was just being carried to the grave [that is, a reference to Luke 7:11-17] is now ashamed, and the primary evangelist [=Luke] who, in his modesty and caution, contented himself with the revival of a dead man who had just succumbed to illness before his eyes, does not even dare to lift his eyes before the magnitude of the historical master and finisher [that is, John]. The fourth [evangelist] has destroyed him.

That’s my translation of one detail of Bruno Bauer’s much richer discussion of how the author of the Gospel of John mechanically struggled* to work with earlier gospel sources in order to create a “far superior” account of Jesus. You can see the full discussion at The Raising of Lazarus, which is part of my larger project to translate Bauer’s work on the four gospels.

Giovanni di Paolo (Italian, ca. 1420-1482). ‘The Resurrection of Lazarus,’ 1426. tempera and gold leaf on panel. Walters Art Museum (37.489A): Acquired by Henry Walters, 1911.

* One little detail Bauer identifies as a clumsy effort by “John” to out-do Luke is his adding the note that Jesus wept when he saw all the mourning over Lazarus — Bruno Bauer’s analysis has the rest of this story depicting a very angry Jesus who is frustrated over everyone’s lack of faith, so weeping at that moment was quite inappropriate. But it seemed a reasonable place to deposit that one detail the author of John really liked in Luke — Jesus weeping. So there it went — consistency of narrative characterization be damned.



A Brilliant New Book on Gospel Origins

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by Neil Godfrey

If you are looking for a serious, easy-to-read and up-to-date study of the question of how the gospels came to be written, what sources their authors used, what their authors were trying to achieve, and for the most part is delivered in conversational style, then you will have found it in Rhetoric and the Synoptic Problem by Professor Mike Duncan.

While acknowledging and questioning other views in New Testament scholarship, Duncan clearly presents a logical case for the various gospels all being polemical re-writes of the Gospel of Mark. He introduces insights that strengthen Mark Goodacre’s revamped case that the author of Luke used both Mark and Matthew and that, consequently, there is no need to postulate, as most scholars have done, a long-lost source (Q). He even demonstrates the physical process of how Luke copied Matthew and Mark without Q on the widespread understanding that authors of the time wrote with scrolls on their knees and in so doing shows that the most common argument against Goodacre’s (Farrer’s and Goulder’s) view — that Luke was unlikely to have broken up Matthew’s Sermon on the Mount if he knew it — all but vanishes.

Duncan is a scholar of rhetoric and communications but his study is very different from the pioneering “gospels through rhetoric” analysis of classicist George Kennedy that I posted about some years back. The simple justification for a rhetorical approach lies in the fact that the gospels were written to persuade and rhetoric is the study of how persuasion works.

I am not a biblical scholar, a seminarian, or even a Christian. To write to any of these audiences would be therefore disingenuous. I am an academic rhetorician who works in a university English department. I often write on early Christianity and rhetoric, and I am an agnostic who holds no text sacred. As such, I make no pretense to offer this book as a contribution to the longstanding field of biblical studies, especially as practiced by its many evangelical academics, or, on the other end, militant atheists. I have no dog in that fight; I do not care if tomorrow someone solves the [Synoptic Problem] by way of a method other than the Farrer Hypothesis that I tend to prefer, although it will be a minor annoyance in that I will have to find another example for my ideas on unsolvable problems and rhetoric. As such, this book is offered in the same spirit as Frank Kermode’s The Genesis of Secrecy, an analysis of the Gospel of Mark from the perspective of literary studies, save I’m using rhetoric as a focus, and I’m looking at all the canonical gospels at once. (p. 2)

One point of method that I particularly liked was Duncan’s demonstration that certain characters and events in the gospels function to make specific polemical points. If Occam’s razor be our guide, that means the events or characters originated in the authors’ imaginations rather than from oral tradition about a presumed historical event — though Duncan does accept the historicity of Jesus and John the Baptist. Here is an example. The author of Mark is apparently responding to the “tradition of resurrection appearances” that we read in Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians by introducing the “empty tomb”.

The author of Mark had plenty of sources available for inspiration for an empty tomb narrative, including Psalms 22, 23, and 24, the widespread Orphic theology as well as the end of the Iliad, the story of Elpenor in the Odyssey, and Plutarch’s and Livy’s accounts of the death of Romulus. But the source of the story is not as important as the kind of rhetorical claim that it allows the author of Mark to make. If the author of Mark invented the empty tomb story, for what purpose was it done?

— It could be to show a “removal”—a Hellenistic showing of an empty grave as evidence that the gods have conferred hero status on its missing occupant.

— It could also just be a simple dramatization of what the author thinks probably happened that day, working with current Jewish custom for visiting the recently deceased.

— The empty tomb could also be a narrative “promise of a personal resurrection to later Christian martyrs”—an important point for post-70 CE Christians in the wake of Jerusalem’s devastation, suggesting a similar physical resurrection for them: you, too, will die, but you will rise again.

But these are just suppositions. I can make a more defensible observation that does not require any of them. Holding the earlier points for historical plausibility in stasis for a moment, the author of Mark’s empty tomb narrative allows Jesus’s resurrection to be implied rather than witnessed. In other words, Mark can have Jesus rise without granting either Peter or the apostles any authority that they might have gained by having witnessed it. Theodore Weeden took a similar position that the authority of the twelve disciples, derived from their witnessing a post-resurrection Jesus, is removed by this maneuver, though he did not note that the empty tomb serves a dual rhetorical function by removing the necessity of eyewitnesses. In any case, the appearances in 1 Cor 15 suggest visual appearances that were witnessed, but Mark’s version lacks appearances; this could also be a subtle way to reconcile 1 Cor 15:35-49’s spiritual resurrection with the 1 Cor 15:3-8 list of physical appearances.

The narrative skill by which Mark accomplishes this maneuver, coupled with Paul’s obliviousness to any empty tomb story, refutes the notion of a longstanding tradition of the discovery of a vacated tomb. . . . 

(pp. 48f – my formatting and highlighting; italics are original)

You might recall from the Epistle to the Galatians that Paul saw himself in some kind of rivalry with Peter and resisted tendencies to exalt Peter’s status above his. We have many hints of a leadership struggle in those earliest documents. The Gospel of Mark, many scholars believe, favours Paul over the other apostles, especially Peter. The author of that gospel speaks through his literary figure of the young man in the tomb an assurance that Jesus has been resurrected and, implicitly, that he will be seen again.

The author of Mark’s argument does not need a post-resurrection appearance by Jesus to make its ultimate point: Jesus prophesied truly and not even his disciples, many of whom started a religion after his death, really understood the true implications. For Jesus to appear like a parlor trick and say, “Told you so!” would deflate the author’s call for much hardier discipleship that the original followers of Jesus mustered. (p. 52)

So where does that leave the later gospels that do contain descriptions of resurrection appearances to leading apostles?

With this understanding of the rhetorical role of Mark’s gospel as a denunciation of apostolic authority in hand, the variances of the post-resurrection appearances in the other two synoptic gospels can be better explained. They are not simply variances in tradition as many exegetes posit, but rejoinders in a hostile rhetorical conversation with peculiar rules dictated by rapidly developing theology and power struggles. (p. 53)

Duncan, as you can see in the above example, addresses explanations about this or that biblical text that many of us may have encountered and obliges us to think more clearly and thoroughly about their ultimate worth.

The book explores the various accounts of the women at the tomb of Jesus, the comparable but different versions of a few miracles, characters and sayings to demonstrate similar points of polemical rivalry among the gospel authors but concentrates on a selection of key areas. I’ll mention the others shortly.

Technical terms are introduced gently and simply for the lay reader. The scholarly literature often refers to “redaction”. Duncan clarifies the different kinds of that process (adding, deleting, tweaking, reordering, retaining) with digestible explanations along with his preference for the simpler (and, he explains, more neutral) term, “editing”. He also offers an easy guide to the different ways we tend to make decisions about various problems, including “the synoptic problem” — deduction, induction and abduction.

The one thing I did not at all like — being a scholarly kind of reader myself — was his relegation of citations and tangential discussions to endnotes instead of being on the main text page. But others, of course, much prefer that style.

Not that the book is “for the lay reader”. It is most decidedly targeted at a scholarly readership as well. The history of the scholarship and current debates are addressed in enough detail to assure both sets of readers of currency and adequate thoroughness.

I referred to the detailed discussion of the resurrection appearances above. The other key topics addressed are the John the Baptist material across the four gospels (this includes observations on “the invention of the gospel genre”), the contrasting treatments of the Twelve Apostles, and the Sermon on the Mount. An appendix exploring the question of the dates of the gospels is included at the end. Duncan does not confine his Baptist discussion to the moment of Jesus’s baptism but shows how the differences in the opening chapters of all the gospels are best understood when one considers the way the Baptist is handled in all references throughout the gospels.

The Sermon on the Mount

Continue reading “A Brilliant New Book on Gospel Origins”


Bruno Bauer Translation Update

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This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

by Neil Godfrey

Bruno Bauer

I have resumed translating Bruno Bauer’s work on the gospels — Criticism of the Gospels and History of their Origin (Kritik der Evangelien und Geschichte ihres Ursprungs) — the link to all the completed chapters under Bruno Bauer in the right margin, beneath About Vridar.

The work is mostly machine translation (a mix of GoogleTranslate, DeepL and ChatGPT and direct human meddling). I have had to process Old German fonts to modern fonts in order to copy text for the translation and there are niggling errors here and there. I try to fix them but I am sure there are many I have overlooked. In case anyone does find anything particularly awkward I have included the German text with my processed modern fonts beside the translation so one can see where the errors might arise and offer a correction.

I asked ChatGPT what I could add about Bruno Bauer here that might be of interest to a general audience and here is its response:

Bruno Bauer was a prominent 19th century German philosopher and theologian, whose ideas were controversial and influential in shaping the cultural and intellectual landscape of his time. Here are some potential topics that could be of interest to a general audience:

      1. Bauer’s Critique of Religion: One of Bauer’s most famous works is his critique of religion, particularly Christianity. Bauer argued that religion was a product of human imagination and projection, rather than a divine revelation. He saw religion as a way of perpetuating social and political oppression and called for the abolition of religion as a means of promoting human freedom.
      2. Bauer’s Political Views: Bauer was also a political thinker, and was involved in various revolutionary and socialist movements throughout his life. He advocated for the overthrow of traditional monarchies and the establishment of a democratic republic and was a strong critic of the Prussian state.
      3. Bauer’s Influence on Marxism: Bauer’s ideas had a significant impact on the development of Marxism, particularly in the work of Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels. Bauer was an early critic of Hegelianism, which provided the philosophical foundation for many of Marx’s ideas, and his critique of religion helped shape Marx’s concept of ideology.
      4. Bauer’s Contributions to Biblical Criticism: Bauer was also a scholar of the Bible, and his work on the New Testament was influential in the development of biblical criticism. He argued that many of the texts traditionally attributed to the apostles were actually written much later and that the historical accuracy of the New Testament was suspect.
      5. Bauer’s Controversial Reputation: Despite his significant contributions to philosophy and theology, Bauer was a controversial figure in his own time. He was often criticized for his radical views and for his harsh criticism of the established order and was frequently denied academic positions or censored by authorities.

I asked a follow-up question for the next points:

While Bruno Bauer was never formally excommunicated from the Christian church, many religious authorities of his time saw his views on religion and Christianity as highly controversial and heretical.

Bauer was a theologian and biblical scholar who came to reject the notion of divine revelation and the supernatural elements of Christianity. In his view, Christianity was a human invention that perpetuated social and political oppression. These views brought him into conflict with both the established Christian churches and the secular authorities that supported them.

As a result of his controversial views, Bauer was denied academic positions and faced censorship and persecution from the authorities. He was also widely criticized by his contemporaries, including other intellectuals and theologians.

So while Bauer was not formally excommunicated from any particular Christian denomination, his rejection of Christian dogma and his embrace of radical and heretical ideas made him an outcast from the mainstream religious and intellectual establishments of his time.

I consider his analyses essential reading for anyone seriously interested in a critical exploration of the gospels. Of course much work has been done since that cannot be ignored, but Bauer’s insights are still provocative and often still deserve a place in any discussion today.





Ch 1 — The Entry into Jerusalem

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This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

by Neil Godfrey



Der Einzug in Jerusalem


The Entry into Jerusalem

108 Woher weiß es Jesus, als er zu seinem feierlichen Einzugs in Jerusalem Anstalten trifft, daß dieselben nicht unnütz seyn werden?

Sein feierlicher Einzug in Jerusalem ist von ihm von vornherein beabsichtigt — seine Absicht ist so ernstlich, er selbst seiner Sache so gewiß, daß er das Thier, dessen er be-darf, den Esel, auf dem er als der verheißene König Zions einziehen will, durch ein Wunder herbeischasst — woher weiß er es aber, daß die Dekoration nicht fehlen werde, ohne die sein Ritt auf jenem Thier allen Effect entbehren würde? — woher weiß er es, daß die Volksmenge ihm entgegen kommen, Baum-zweige auf den Weg streuen und ihn mit dem Rufe: gesegnet sey, der da kommt im Namen des Herrn! in die Stadt geleiten werde?

How does Jesus know, when he makes preparations for his solemn entry into Jerusalem, that they will not be in vain?

His solemn entry into Jerusalem is intended by him from the start – his intention is so serious, he himself is so sure of his cause that he miraculously brings about the animal he needs, the donkey, on which he wants to enter as the promised King of Zion – but how does he know that the ceremony will not be lacking, without which his ride on that animal would lack all effect? – How does he know that the crowd will come to meet him, scatter branches of trees on the way and escort him into the city with the cry: Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!

108/109 Und die Menge — woher kommt ihr auf einmal die Gewißheit, daß dieser Mann auf seinem Esel ihr verheißener König sey? Bis jetzt hat sich Jesus vor dem Volke noch nicht als Messias bekannt — ja, als die Jünger am Schluß seiner galiläischen Wirksamkeit hinter das Geheimniß seiner Messianität kamen, verbot er ihnen streng, den Leuten zu sagen, wer er sey — woher kennt ihn also die Volksmenge von Jerusalem — woher kommt ihr der Gedanke, ihm entgegen zu ziehen und ihn in die heilige Stadt einzuführen? And the crowd – where did they suddenly get the certainty that this man on his donkey was their promised king? Until now Jesus has not confessed himself to the people as Messiah – yes, when the disciples discovered the secret of his Messiahship at the end of his Galilean ministry, he strictly forbade them to tell the people who he was – so how does the crowd of Jerusalem know him – where does the idea come from to meet him and introduce him into the holy city?
109 Und als die Jünger nach dem Geheiß ihres Herrn in dem Flecken den beschriebenen Esel fanden und losbanden, woher kommt es, daß jene Leute, die nicht begreifen konnten, wie die Jünger dazu kamen, sich an fremdem Eigenthum zu vergreifen, durch Ein Wort, durch die Formel: „der Herr bedarf sein!” sich zufrieden stellen lassen? — woher kommt es, daß das Eine Wort „Herr”, während sie den Herrn selbst noch nicht kannten, sie zur Ruhe brachte?

Alle diese Schwierigkeiten und Widersprüche hat der Prag-matismus des Urevangelium- erzeugt — also auch in vorau-geebnet und gelöst. Der letzte Kampf, die Vollendung der Kollision und die schließliche Herbeiführung der Katastrophe fordern die Voraussetzung, daß Jesus offen als Messias aufgetreten und als solcher anerkannt ist — daher der feierliche Einzug in Jerusalem mit allen Widersprüchen, die in ihm selbst und in seiner Vorbereitung liegen — daher auch der Blinder der als Vorposten der begeisterten Menge der Hauptstadt zu Jericho austritt *).

And when the disciples, at the command of their Lord, found the donkey in the village and untied it, how is it that those people, who could not understand how the disciples came to take possession of other people’s property, let themselves be satisfied by one word, by the formula: “the Lord needs to be! – Where did it come from that the One Word “Lord”, while they did not yet know the Lord Himself, brought them to rest?

All these difficulties and contradictions have been created by the pragmatism of the primal gospel, and have thus also been anticipated and solved. The final struggle, the completion of the conflict and the eventual bringing about of the catastrophe demand the prerequisite that Jesus openly appeared as Messiah and was recognised as such – hence the solemn entry into Jerusalem with all the contradictions that lie in it and in its preparation – hence also the blind man who exits as the outpost of the enthusiastic crowd of the capital at Jericho *).

109* *) Wenn es noch im jetzigen Marcusevangelium, in der Mitte des Bericht« (E. 10, 49), heißt: die Lenke „riefen den Blinden”, so be-weist diese Wendung, daß der Mann im Anfang« des Berichts nur als »ein Blinder” (τυφλὸς τις) bezeichnet war. Erst der Ueberarbeiter der Urevangeliums, der Urheber des jetzigen Marcusevangelium, hat den Zusatz und die falsche Bestimmtheit: „der Sohn des Timänn, Barttmäus, der Blinde” (V. 46) eingeschoben — ein Zusah, dessen UngehöriM sich auch daraus erweist, daS er die folgende Bestimmung, der Man« habe bettelnd am Wege gesessen, überflüssig machte. Im Urevangelium hieß es nur: „eia Blinder sag am Weg« und bettelte.” *) “If in the current Gospel of Mark, it still says in the middle of the account (ch. 10, 49) that the people “called the blind man,” this phrase proves that the man was only referred to as “a blind man” (τυφλὸς τις) at the beginning of the account. It was only the reviser of the original Gospel, the author of the current Gospel of Mark, who inserted the addition and the false specification: “the son of Timaeus, Bartimaeus, the blind man” (v. 46) – an addition that is shown to be inappropriate by the fact that it made the following specification, that the man was begging by the roadside, redundant. In the original Gospel, it only said: “a blind man sat by the roadside and begged.”
110 Nach der Beschreibung, die Epiphanias von Marclon-Evangelium gibt, hat Urlukas die beiden Erzählung-stücke von dem Einzug in Jerusalem und von der Tempelreinigung (C. 19, 29—46) ausgelassen.

Ausgelassen — denn daß er durch sein Verfahren einen Typus, der Jesum wirklich nach Jerusalem kommen ließ und sein erstes Auftreten in der Hauptstadt schilderte, lückenhaft und haltlos gemacht hat, kann er selbst nicht läugnen, wenn er auf die Notiz (C. 19, 28), daß Jesus (von Jericho) weiter zog und die Reise nach Jerusalem fortsetzte, sogleich da- fertige Factum folge« läßt, daß Jesus sich täglich mit Lehren im Tempel beschäftigte.

Mit überlegter Absicht ausgelassen — denn kurz vorher hat er den Herrn den Satz aufstellen lassen, daß das Reich Gottes im Jnnrrn der Gläubigen waltet (C. 17, 21), — ja läßt er ihn sogar mit ausdrücklicher Beziehung darauf, daß er nahe bei Jerusalem war und sie — (sie überhaupt!) — meinten, daß das Reich Gottes auf der Stelle offenbar werden sollte (C. 19, 11), in Jericho die Parabel von den Talenten vor« tragen. Jst das Reich Gottes ein inwendiges, so wäre der Pomp des Einzuges in Jerusalem sehr ungehörig gewesen — hat Jesus auf der letzten Station vor Jerusalem sich gegen die voreilige Erwartung des Reiches Gottes erklärt, so durfte er nicht den Augenblick darauf durch den Antritt seiner königlichen Herrschaft seine Erklärung widerrufen.

According to the description given by Epiphanias of Marclon’s Gospel, Urlukas omitted the two narrative pieces of the entry into Jerusalem and of the cleansing of the temple (C. 19, 29-46).

Omitted – for he himself cannot deny that by his procedure he has made incomplete and untenable a type which really had Jesus come to Jerusalem and described his first appearance in the capital, when he immediately “follows” the note (C. 19, 28) that Jesus moved on (from Jericho) and continued the journey to Jerusalem with the finished fact that Jesus occupied himself daily with teaching in the temple.

With deliberate intent he omits – for shortly before he had the Lord establish the proposition that the kingdom of God reigns in the hearts of the faithful (C. 17, 21), – yes, he even has him recite the parable of the talents in Jericho with explicit reference to the fact that he was near Jerusalem and that they – (they at all!) – thought that the kingdom of God should be revealed on the spot (C. 19, 11). If the kingdom of God is internal, the pomp of the entry into Jerusalem would have been very unseemly – if Jesus, at the last station before Jerusalem, declared himself against the premature expectation of the kingdom of God, he was not allowed to revoke his declaration the moment after by taking up his royal reign.

110/111 Zeugt aber gegen Urlukas die Lücke, die er unvorsichtig genug zwischen der Reise nach Jerusalem und dem wirklichen Aufenthalt daselbst offen ließ, so werden seine vorbereitenden Vorbemerkungen, die stillschweigend den Bericht vom Einzug in Jerusalem erstiaen sollen, von ihrer Umgebung selbst zurüage-wiesen und als verunglückter Nothbehelf widerlegt. But if the gap which he carelessly enough left open between the journey to Jerusalem and the actual stay there testifies against Urluke, then his preparatory preliminary remarks, which are supposed to tacitly cover the report of the entry into Jerusalem, are themselves rejected by their surroundings and refuted as an unfortunate stopgap.
111 Daß das Reich Gottes ein inwendiges sey*), soll Je-sus auf die Frage der Pharisäer, wann das Reich Gottes komme, erwidert haben — welche Antwort also! Die Phari-särr fragen nach der Zeit, wann das Reich Gottes eintreffen werde, und Jesus behandelt in seiner Antwort den Gegensatz des Jnnerlichen und Aeußerlichrn — hat diesen Gegen-satz wenigens im Auge, wenn er dem Reich Gottes die Aeußer-lichkeit abspricht! Als Eingang zu diesem Spruch stellt er da« gegen den Satz auf, daß das Kommen des Reiches Gottes kein Gegenstand der Beobachtung sey — spricht er also doch von der Zeit — setzt er das Kommen des Reiches als gewiß, als zukünftig voraus und verneint er nur die Vorstellung, daß man dieses Kommen berechnen und beobachten könne — und unmittelbar darauf? (C. 17, 22—37) — folgt eine jener Anticipationen der Rede Jesu über seine Wiederkunft, — eine jener Anticipationen, die Urlukas in jenem unförmlichen Reise-bericht zusammengehäuft hat — die Ausführung des Gedankens, daß die Wiederkunft des Menschensohnes eine plötzliche und eine unerwartete seyn werde. That the kingdom of God is internal*), Jesus is said to have answered the question of the Pharisees, when the kingdom of God will come – so what an answer! The Pharisees ask about the time when the kingdom of God will come, and in his answer Jesus deals with the contrast between the internal and the external – he has this contrast in mind when he denies the external nature of the kingdom of God! As an introduction to this saying he sets up “there” against the proposition that the coming of the kingdom of God is not an object of observation – does he therefore speak of time – does he presuppose the coming of the kingdom as certain, as future, and does he only deny the idea that this coming can be calculated and observed – and immediately afterwards? (C. 17, 22-37) – follows one of those anticipations of Jesus’ speech about His return, – one of those anticipations which Urlukas has heaped together in that shapeless travelogue – the execution of the thought that the return of the Son of Man will be a sudden and unexpected one.
111* *) ἐντὸς ὑμῶν *) ἐντὸς ὑμῶν
111/112 Urlukas hat also sehr Unrecht daran gethan, jenen Spruch von der innerlichen Natur des Reiches Gottes in diese Rede über das Plötzliche der Wiederkunft des Menschen-sohns einzufügen, und es konnte ihm auch nichts helfen, wenn er sein Versehen dadurch zu vertuschen und den Schein der Zusammengehörigkeit zu erzeugen glaubte, daß er dem Spruch von der innerlichen Natur des Gottesreichs dieselbe Warnung und Wendung voranstellte, die nachher wiederkehrt, nachher aber nur (V. 23) an ihrer Stelle ist, wenn es gilt die Verführer zu schildern, die vor der Zeit schon den wiedergekommenen Menschensohn zeigen wollen. Dieser Formel: „sie werden zu euch sagen, siehe hier! siehe da!” hat er sogar, weil auch der vorhergehende Satz: „nicht kommt das Reich Gottes”…. mit einer Verneinung anfängt, (V. 21) die ungelenke und unpassende Form gegeben: „nicht werden sie zu euch sagen”… Urluke was therefore very wrong to insert the saying about the inward nature of the kingdom of God into this speech about the sudden return of the Son of Man, and it could not help him if he thought he could cover up his oversight and create the appearance of coherence by prefixing the saying about the inward nature of the kingdom of God with the same warning and turn of phrase that returns later, but is only used in its place (v. 23) when it is necessary to describe the deceivers who want to show the Son of Man returning before the end of time. 23) in its place, when it is necessary to describe the deceivers who want to show the returned Son of Man before the time. To this formula: “they will say to you, look here! look there!” he even gave (v. 21) the awkward and inappropriate form: “they will not say to you” because the previous sentence: “the kingdom of God is not coming”…. also begins with a negation….
112 Und die Parabel von den Talenten soll der Leser wirklich als eine Widerlegung und Belehrung derjenigen ansehen, die auf der Stelle schon die Offenbarung des Reiches Gottes erwarteten? Welche Zumuthung! Sie kennt nur die Eine Moral, daß dem, der da hat, gegeben, dem, der da nicht hat, auch was er hat, genommen wird. Nur der für die Moral des Ganzen unwesentliche Nebenzug, daß der Herr der Knechte, ehe er dieselben mit den Talenten ausstattet, verreist und nachher zurückkehrt, hat Urlukas dazu verführt, den Vertrag der Parabel durch jene Erwartung zu veranlassen, d. h. sie an so un-passender Stelle anzubringen.

Diese Lütte ist also nicht mehr gerechtfertigt und sie muß wieder ausgefüllt werden — aber nur durch den Urbericht, nicht durch die Darstellung des Einzuges, den der Compilator des jetzigen Lukasevangeliums sammt der Tempelreinigung wieder zu Gnaden angenommen hat.

Richt die Jünger dürfen, wie dieser es haben will (Luk. 19, 35. 36), nachdem sie ihre Kleider auf den Esel gelegt haben, ihre Kleider auch noch auf den Weg breiten — sondern das muß, wie es im Urbericht geschieht, ein Theil der Volksmenge thun, während der andere Theil Zweige von den Bäumen bricht und sie auf den Weg streut.

And should the reader really regard the parable of the talents as a refutation and instruction of those who expected the revelation of the Kingdom of God right away? What impertinence! It knows only one morality, that to him who has shall be given, and from him who has not shall be taken away what he has. Only the incidental feature, which is not essential to the morality of the whole, that the master of the servants, before he endows them with the talents, goes away and returns afterwards, has seduced Urlukas to induce the contract of the parable by this expectation, i.e. to place it in such an inappropriate place.

This lie is therefore no longer justified, and it must be filled in again – but only by the original account, not by the representation of the entrance, which the compiler of the present Gospel of Luke has again accepted with grace, together with the cleansing of the temple.

The disciples were not allowed to spread their garments on the road after they had put them on the donkey, as the author wanted (Luk 19, 35. 36), but rather, as in the original account, a part of the crowd had to do so, while the other part broke branches from the trees and scattered them on the road.

113 Nicht „der ganze Haufe der Jünger” (B. 37) kann dem lobpreisenden Zug bilden, denn man weiß nicht, woher auf ein-mal diese vertraute Jüngerschaar kommt — sondern das Volk, das seinen König erkennt, geleitet ihn in seine Stadt.

Es ist der Triumphzug des Königs, der seine Herrschaft ««tritt — es ist daher ungehörig, wenn der Compilator (Luk. 19, 37) allein an den Wunderthäter denkt und den Jubel jener Jüngerschaar aus der Menge der Wunder erklärt, die sie gesehen hatten.

Man sieht zwar noch, wie der Compilator dazu kam, die Menge der Jünger an die Stelle des Volks zu setzen: — weil nämlich das Bolk nicht „auch” — (wie jene Jünger) — be-dacht habe, was zu seinem Frieden dient, muß der Herr, als er nahe herbeikam und die Stadt sah, über ihr Ende weinen und ihren Untergang weissagen (V. 41—44) — d. h. den Freudentag trüben.

Auch das war schon unpassend, daß der Compilator vor der Bedrohung der Stadt den Zug anbrachte, daß einige Pha-risäer den Herrn aufforderten, er solle seinen Jüngern Einhalt thun, worauf derselbe antwortet: „wenn diese schweigen, so werden die Steine schreien” (V. 39. 40) — die Freude des Tages muß vollständig seyn! Vollständig und ohne Mißklang! Deshalb ist es auch unpassend, daß dieser spätere Bearbeiter des Lukasevangeliums an demselben Tage noch, sogleich nach dem Eintritt in die Stadt, die Tempelreinigung geschehen läßt. Heute ist vielmehr ein Festtag! Ein Tag des Glanzes — der Freude, die durch keinen Mißton unterbrochen werden darf.

Not “the whole multitude of disciples” (B. 37) can form the praising procession, for one does not know where this familiar crowd of disciples comes from all at once – but the people, who recognise their king, lead him into their city.

It is the triumphant procession of the King who “treads” his reign – it is therefore improper for the compiler (Luk 19:37) to think only of the miracle-worker and to explain the rejoicing of that band of disciples from the multitude of miracles they had seen.

We can still see how the compiler came to put the multitude of disciples in the place of the people: – for because the multitude had not “also” – (like those disciples) – considered what was for their peace, the Lord, when he came near and saw the city, must weep over its end and prophesy its destruction (vv. 41-44) – i.e. cloud the day of rejoicing.

Even this was incongruous, that the compiler, before threatening the city, made the move, that some Phaisees called upon the Lord to stop His disciples, to which He replied: “if these are silent, the stones will cry out” (v. 39. 40) – the joy of the day must be complete! Complete and without discord! Therefore, it is also inappropriate that this later editor of Luke’s Gospel has the cleansing of the temple take place on the same day, immediately after the entrance into the city. Today is rather a day of celebration! A day of splendour – of joy, which must not be interrupted by a murmur.

113/114 Auch Matthäus gibt dem Ganzen die falsche und unpassende Anordnung, daß Jesus sogleich nach dem Einzuge in den Tempel läuft und die Reinigung desselben vornimmt. Auch er las wie Lukas in einer seiner Quellenschriften von einer miß-liebjgen Bemerkung der Ober» über den Beifall, der Jesum empfing — er läßt dieselben zwar erst «ach der Tempelrei-nigung mit ihrer unzustiedenen Mahnung auftreten, muß es aber gleichwohl noch verrathen, daß diese Episode in seiner Quelle einen Bestandtheil des Einzuges bildete, da die Unzufriedenheit der Obern durch das Hosiannarufen der Kinder (!) hervorgerufen wird. Er wußte auch bereits davon, hatte darüber Etwas gelesen, daß der Jubel, der au diesem Tage Jesum umgab, durch den Anblick von Wunderthaten hervorgerufen war — er läßt deshalb sogleich nach der Tempel-reinigung — sogar noch im Tempel! — Jesum Wunder ver-richten, damit der Aerger der Obern und der Jubel der Kinder recht natürlich erklärt werde. Allein weder das Jubelgeschrei der Letzteren, noch die Bemerkung der Gegner enthält die leiseste Bezugnahme auf jene Wunder und in Beidem ist so wenig wie in der Antwort Jesu die Voraussetzung, daß das Ganze im Tempel geschieht, aufzufinden. Matthew also gives the wrong and inappropriate order that Jesus runs into the temple immediately after the entrance and cleanses it. Like Luke, he also read in one of his sources about a displeasing remark by the “superiors” about the applause that Jesus received – although he only lets them appear “after the temple dedication with their unpleasant admonition, he must nevertheless reveal that this episode in his source formed a part of the entry, since the dissatisfaction of the superiors is caused by the children calling out to the hosannah (!). He already knew about it, had read something about it, that the rejoicing that surrounded Jesus on that day was caused by the sight of miraculous deeds  – He therefore had Jesus perform miracles immediately after the cleansing of the temple, even while still in the temple, so that the anger of the rulers and the rejoicing of the children would be explained quite naturally. But neither the rejoicing of the latter, nor the remark of the opponents contains the slightest reference to those miracles, and in both, as little as in Jesus’ answer, is the precondition that the whole thing takes place in the temple to be found.
114 Der erste Bildner jener Episode und Variation auf die mißliebige Bemerkung der Pharisäer, die uns im Lukasevange-lium erhalten ist, hat sie, wie das Hosiannarufen beweist, in den Einzug verwebt, und wenn sie hier als ein störender Ueber-fluß vom Urbericht zurückgewiescn wird, so will dieser auch nachher, nach der Tempelreinignng, von ihr Nichts wissen, da er nach dieser nur Eine Aeußerung und Frage der Obern kennt — die Frage nach der Vollmacht, die Jesus für sein großartig gewaltthätiges Auftreten und für sein oberstrichterliches Benehmen aufzuweisen habe. The first author of this episode and variation on the disliked remark of the Pharisees, which is preserved for us in Luke’s Gospel, interwove it, as the calling of the Hosanna proves, into the entrance, and if it is rejected here as a disturbing overflow from the original report, the latter, after the cleansing of the temple, does not want to know anything about it, since after this he knows only one statement and question of the superiors – the question of the authority that Jesus had to show for his grandiose violent appearance and for his supreme judicial behaviour.
114/115 Das eigne Werk des Matthäus ifl dagegen das schriftstel-lrrische Wunder, daß Jesus zu gleicher Zeit auf zwei Thieren reitend seinen Einzug hält — bewirkt hat er es dadurch, daß er die Jünger, als sie ein Eselsfüllen mit dessen Mutter herbeigebracht und ihre Kleider auf beide*) gelegt hatten, ihren Meister in Einem und demselben Augenblick« gleichfalls auf beide Thiere**) setzen läßt — das Erstere, an sich schon unnöthig, geschah unwillkührlich, weil dem Matthäus beide Thiere wichtig waren und zum Ceremoniell des Ganzen zu gehören schienen, nachdem er einmal in der Weissagung des Zacharias C. 9, 9 die beiden parallelen Bezeichnungen Eines und desselben Esels zu peinlich prosaisch als dir Bezeichnung zweier Thiere aufgefaßt hatte — das zweite, ein reines Unding, war die me-chanische Folge des Intereffes, welches er an den beiden Thieren der Weissagung nahm. Bon der Formel „auf sie” konnte er sich nicht trennen und er schrieb sie mechanisch zum zweitenmale hin, nachdem sie ihm einmal als wichtig und bedeutungsvoll erschienen war. Matthew’s own work, on the other hand, is the scriptural miracle of Jesus’ entrance riding on two animals at the same time – he brought this about by having the disciples, when they had brought a donkey’s colt with its mother and laid their clothes on both*), the former, in itself already unnecessary, was done involuntarily, because both animals**) were important to Matthew and seemed to belong to the ceremonial of the whole, after he once in the prophecy of Zacharias C. 9, 9 he had understood the two parallel designations of one and the same donkey too embarrassingly prosaically as the designation of two animals – the second, a pure absurdity, was the mechanical consequence of the interest he took in the two animals of the prophecy. He could not part with the formula “upon them” and wrote it down mechanically for the second time after it had once seemed important and significant to him.
115* *) ἐπ’ αὐτῶν. *) ἐπ’ αὐτῶν.
115 Während übrigens der Verfasser des Urberichts seiner Sache sicher ist und sich darauf verlassen ka«n, daß Jedermann in sei« ner Darstellung den verheißenen König des Zacharias sogleich erkennen werde, hat Matthäus das Ueberflüssig« gethan und noch ausdrüalich daran erinnert, daß es sich, als Jesus die Jünger nach dem Esel ausschiaie, um die Erfüllung jener Weissagung des Zacharias handelte. Er hätte auch noch darauf verweisen können, daß der Esel losgebunden werden muß und daß Jesus ausdrücklich dieß Losbinden erwähnt, weil Juda’s, des Erwählten, des Fürsten und Herrn Esel (1. Mos. 49, 11) angebunden ifl. Meanwhile, the author of the original account is certain of his matter and can rely on everyone recognizing the promised king of Zechariah in his portrayal. However, Matthew has done the superfluous and explicitly reminded that, when Jesus sent the disciples for the donkey, it was about the fulfillment of that prophecy of Zechariah. He could also have pointed out that the donkey must be untied and that Jesus expressly mentioned this untying because Judah’s, the chosen one’s, the prince and lord’s donkey (Gen. 49:11) was bound.
115/117 Der Vierte endlich muß eine Darstellung vor Augen gehabt haben, die ebenso wie diejenige, die wir im jetzigen Lukasevangelium lesen, die Begristrung des Volks durch die Wunder erklärt, die es vom Herrn gesehen hatte — ein Anstoß dieser Art konnte es nur bewirken, daß er seine Geschichte von der Auferweckung des Lazarus gerade hieher setzte — ein Anstoß dieser Art mußte auf ihn gewirkt haben, als er mit seiner unbeholfenen Absichtlichkeit es hervorhob, daß die Leute, um Lazarus zu sehen, nach Bethanien hinausgingen, und als er die Leute, die Jesum beim Einzuge ———— doch was sprechen wir vom Einzuge, wenn wir die Darstellung des Vierten wikdergeben wollen — unter seiner Hand verlieren die festesten Gestalten des synoptischen Geschichtskreises ihren Halt und ihre Form — was in diesem Kreise ein bedeutsames, von Jesu selbst vorbereitetes und beabsichtigtes Ereigniß ist, wird durch die Kunst des Vierten zu einer zufälligen Begebenheit, die dem Heben, er weiß nicht wie, arrivirt — selbst die Mittel, die der Vierte zur Herbeiführung dieser Begebenheit in Bewegung fetzt, verändern im Augenblia, wenn er sie als Hebel ansetzt, ihre Gestalt und mit je größerer Absichtlichkeit er ihre Hebelkraft rühmt, um so mehr straft ihn ihre Schwächt und ihre ungeschickte Form Lügen. Erst soll das Wunder, das Jesus am Lazarus verrichtet hat, die Menge, die ihn nach Jerusalem geleitet, herbeischaffen — darum müssen Viele nach Bethanien hinausströmen, um den Ailferwraten zu sehen, und an Jesus glauben (C. 12, 11) — auf einmal aber, als man in Jerusalem hört, daß Jesus nach der Stadt kommt, muß ihm eine ganz andere Volksmasse entgegenziehen und sein zufälliges Kommen zu einem feierlichen Einzuge machen — nämlich die Volksmenge, die des Festes wegen nach Jerusalem gekommen war (V. 12) — und in demselben Augenblicke, wo man noch glaubt, daß diese Festbesucher dem Herrn als dem König Jsraels entgegencufen, bemerkt der Vierte, daß jener Volkshaufe, der dabei war, als Jesus den Lazarus er weckte, jetzt seine That verkündete, also die preisende Menge bildete (v. 17) — nein! nein! so verhielt es sich nicht! in demselben Athemzuge meldet uns der Vierte, daß die Menge, dir Jesum umgab und geleitete, durch die Nachricht von seinem Wunder am Lazarus dazu bewogen wurde, ihm entgegen zu ziehen! Finally, the Fourth [Evangelist] must have had a representation before his eyes which, just like the one we read in the current Gospel of Luke, explains the limitation of the people through the miracles they had seen from the Lord. Such a stimulus could only have caused him to place his story of the resurrection of Lazarus here. Such a stimulus must have acted on him when, with his clumsy intentionality, he emphasized that the people went out to Bethany to see Lazarus, and when he loses the firm shapes of the synoptic cycle of events under his hand – “But why do we talk about the entry when we want to reproduce the portrayal of the fourth [evangelist]? – under his hand, the firmest figures of the synoptic cycle of stories lose their grip and shape –  What in this circle is a significant event, prepared and intended by Jesus himself, is turned by the artistry of the Fourth Gospel into a random occurrence that happens, he knows not how – Even the means that the Fourth Gospel employs to bring about this event change their shape in an instant, as soon as he sets them as levers, and with the greater intentionality he praises their leverage power, the more their weakness and clumsy form expose him as a liar. The miracle that Jesus performed on Lazarus is supposed to bring the crowd that led him to Jerusalem – therefore, many must stream out to Bethany to see the one who was raised from the dead, and believe in Jesus (John 12:11) — but all at once, when one hears in Jerusalem that Jesus is coming to the city, a completely different crowd must meet him and make his accidental coming a solemn entry – namely the crowd that had come to Jerusalem for the feast (v. 12) – And in the same moment, while people still believed that these festival-goers were going to meet the Lord as the King of Israel, the Fourth [Gospel writer] noticed that the crowd who was there when Jesus raised Lazarus now spread the word about his deed, forming the praising crowd (v. 17) – No! No! It was not like that! In the same breath, the Fourth Gospel informs us that the crowd surrounding and accompanying Jesus was moved by the news of his miracle on Lazarus to go out to meet him!
117 Ein Geschichtsschreiber, der mit so viel Mitteln des Pragmatismus die feierliche Einholung — zur Einholung nämlich ist der Einzug geworden — herbeigeführt und erklärt hat, bedurfte des synoptischen Wunders nicht mehr, mit welchem sich Jesus den unentbehrlichen Esel verschaffte — sein Jesus findet ihn (V. 14) — findet ihn zufällig und das war genug — der Leser bedurfte keiner Erklärung dieses Zufalls, nachdem die ganze Begebenheit durch eine so zwingende und großartige Nothwendigkeit herbeigeführt war.

Der Leser brauchte es auch nicht zu wissen, wie die Pha-risäer bei dieser Gelegenheit zu ihrem Ausruf kamen: „seht ihr, daß Nichts hilft?” (L. 19). Muß denn der Vierte die ganze Quellenschrift, die er benutzte, abschreiben und dem Leser jene Episode des Einzugs, in der die Obern gleichfalls dem Jubel des Volks gewehrt wissen wollen und auf die Vergeb-lichkeit des Bemühens aufmerksam gemacht werden, voll-ständig mittheilen? Jst der Vierte nicht Meister des gegebenen Stoffs und ist es nicht genug, wenn er demselben nur zerstückelte Stichworte entlehnt?

A historian who, with so much pragmatism, has brought about and explained the solemn reception – The entry has become a reception – no longer needed the synoptic miracle by which Jesus procured the indispensable donkey- his Jesus finds it (v. 14) – finds it by chance and that was enough – the reader did not need an explanation of this chance, after the whole event had been brought about by such a compelling and magnificent necessity.

Nor did the reader need to know how the Pharisees came to their exclamation on this occasion: “Do you see that nothing helps? (L. 19). Must the Fourth then transcribe the whole of the source scripture which he used and give the reader a complete account of that episode of the entry in which the superiors likewise want the people’s rejoicing to be resisted and are made aware of the futility of their efforts? Is the Fourth not a master of the given material and is it not enough if he only borrows fragmented key words from it?

117/118 Am Ende soll er auch dem Leser sagen, welches der vorhergehende Tag war, mit welchem der folgende (V. 12), der der Lag der Einholung ist, in Verhältniß steht? Am Ende soll er diesen folgenden Tag, nachdem das Dauernde, daß die Juden nach Bethanien hinausflrömten, um den Lazarus zu sehen, und daß die Hohenpriester schon daran dachten, den Stein des Anstoßes, den Lazarus au- dem Wege zu räumen (B.9—11), vorangegangen war, überhaupt nur erklären? Oder soll er gar, wenn dieser folgende Tag der Lag nach der Salbung ist, die sechs Tage vor dem Pascha geschah, es erklärlich machen, wie diese Rückbeziehung möglich ist, wenn indessen jenes Dauernde dazwischengetreten war? The author also wants to inform the reader which was the previous day and how it relates to the following day (v.12), which is the day of the triumphal entry. In the end, is he supposed to explain this following day, after what was established as constant, that the Jews were streaming out to Bethany to see Lazarus, and that the high priests were already thinking of removing the stumbling block, which was Lazarus, from their path (John 9-11)? Or should he even, if this following day is the day of the anointing after which there are six days before the Passover, make it understandable how this retrospective reference is possible, when in the meantime that which lasted intervened?
18 Welche ungerechte Zumuthung!

Wir wollen es von ihm auch nicht wissen, wie er es rechtfertigen kann, daß er die Salbung, die die Vorfeier des Begräbnisses Jesu ist, vor den Einzug gestellt hat, der im synoptischen Geschichtskreis vielmehr den letzten Kampf in Jerusalem einleitet. Es ist klar, daß er nur deshalb die Salbung so unangemessen verfrüht hat, weil er sie mit der Geschichte des Lazarus in möglichst nahen Zusammenhang bringen wollte, da Maria, die Schwester des Auferweckten, die salbende Frau ist — aber wir wollen nicht weiter in ihn dringen und ihn fragen, ob dieser äußerliche Zusammenhang uns für jene unzeitige Vorausnahme einer Handlung, die nur unmittelbar vor dem wirklichen Eintritt des Leidens und Todes Sinn und Bedeutung hat, entschädigen kann.

Mag er auch das Geheimniß, wie er zur Notiz kommt, daß die Salbung (C. 12, 1) sechs Tage vor Ostern geschah, für sich behalten — wir halten es mit dem Urevangelium, dessen Schöpfer nicht daran denkt, die Dauer des Aufenthalt- Jesu in Jerusalem zu bestimmen, weil er in jener Zeit lebt, die nicht nach Sonnen-Aufgang und Untergang, sondern nach der idea-len Ausbreitung der Begebenheiten gemessen wird.

What an unjust imposition!

Nor do we want to know from him how he can justify placing the anointing, which is the preliminary celebration of the burial of Jesus, before the entrance, which in the synoptic historical circle rather introduces the last battle in Jerusalem. It is clear that he only brought the anointing so unreasonably early because he wanted to bring it into as close a connection as possible with the story of Lazarus, since Mary, the sister of the resurrected man, is the anointing woman – but we do not want to penetrate further into him and ask him whether this external connection can compensate us for that untimely anticipation of an action which has meaning and significance only immediately before the real occurrence of suffering and death.

He may keep to himself the secret of how he came to note that the anointing (ch. 12, 1) took place six days before Easter – we keep it with the primal gospel, whose creator does not think of determining the duration of Jesus’ stay in Jerusalem, because he lives in that time which is not measured according to the rising and setting of the sun, but according to the idea of the spread of events.

118/119 Wir lassen dem Vierten seine Ansicht, daß Jesus auch dießmal, wie bisher, nur um der Feslfeier willen nach Jerusalem kommt, und lassen uns um Urevangelium genügen, dessen Verfasser — wie schön! nach der Ansicht des Vierten: wie ärmlich! — noch nicht an- Pascha denkt, wenn Jesus Jerusalem betritt, und erfl da, als die Katastrophe eintritt und in der Salbung da- Begräbniß Jesu in voraus geleiert wird, bemerkt, daß diese Vorfeier zwei Lage vor dem Pascha geschah! We leave the Fourth his view that Jesus comes to Jerusalem this time, as hitherto, only for the sake of the celebration, and let us be content with the primal gospel, whose author – how beautiful! in the view of the Fourth: how poor! – does not yet think of the Passover when Jesus enters Jerusalem, and when the catastrophe occurs and Jesus’ burial is read in advance in the anointing, he notes that this preliminary celebration took place two days before the Passover!
———- ———-


List of Vridar Posts on the Book of Revelation

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by Neil Godfrey

I have added a new page in the right column under Archives By Topic to allow easy access to the complete list of recent posts on Revelation presenting Thomas Witulski’s second century date for the work. The page also includes all other posts that have discussed Revelation from various perspectives.

But since we’re here right now, here is a copy of that page:

Annotated list of Vridar posts on the Book of Revelation

Continue reading “List of Vridar Posts on the Book of Revelation”


Revelation 11: Measuring the Temple and Two Witnesses – A Contemporary Interpretation

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by Neil Godfrey

Thomas Witulski

This post concludes my reading of Thomas Witulski’s three works proposing that the Book of Revelation was written at the time of Hadrian and the outbreak of the Bar Kochba War.

  • The first series, taken from Die Johannesoffenbarung und Kaiser Hadrian, covered Hadrian’s identification with Zeus, his popularity as a Nero Redivivus, and his propagandist Polemon’s activities in Asia Minor and their impact on Christians there;
  • the second series with Die Vier Apokalyptischen Reiter Apk 6,1-8 surveyed the years of Trajan’s conquests, the widespread Jewish rebellions and the consequences of their savage suppression, represented by “the four horsemen of the apocalypse”;
  • this third round has dipped into Apk 11 und der Bar Kokhba-Aufstand to see how W understands the measuring of the temple and the two witnesses of Revelation 11.

I prefer to read works cited for myself to gain a fuller knowledge and understanding of the evidence and interpretations being raised. This has been especially helpful since I rely on machine translations of the German works and sometimes it has been a struggle to be sure I have grasped the exact idea W has sought to convey. The wider reading has led me sometimes to go beyond W’s specific content but I hope I have made it clear whenever I have done so. With this final series some of the works I have wanted to read have still not reached me so I may later return to expand on one or two parts of the discussion. I do appreciate critical comments that some readers have added. It may take me a few days to catch up with them but they are always important to help keep us honest and thorough in our explorations of this text and what it can tell us about early Christian history.

W’s final chapter brings together his analyses of the text and examination of the primary evidence for the events of the early second century.

A Contemporary Interpretation of the Measuring of the Temple (Rev 11:1-2)

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. 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.

If read against contemporary history, W concludes, this passage can be interpreted as an allusion to Hadrian’s visit to the province of Judea in 130 CE and his efforts to embed a Hellenistic-Roman culture that was opposed to “Old Testament” Jewish thinking. The rebels’ program to rebuild the Yahweh sanctuary in Jerusalem and to reinstall a temple priest cult should also be understood in this context.

For W, the measuring presupposes that the buildings are not yet constructed (or have been destroyed) at the time of the writing of the Apocalypse. This corresponds to the conditions in Jerusalem on the eve of the Bar Kochba revolt as Cassius Dio describes them.

W cites the many works that have discussed the thesis that Hadrian’s decision to rebuild Jerusalem as the Roman colony of Aelia Capitolina. The question in part focuses on the contradictory ancient sources. We only have an epitome of Cassius Dio’s History and that condenses the original words to:

At Jerusalem he founded a city in place of the one which had been razed to the ground, naming it Aelia Capitolina, and on the site of the temple of the god he raised a new temple to Jupiter. This brought on a war of no slight importance nor of brief duration, for the Jews deemed it intolerable that foreign races should be settled in their city and foreign religious rites planted there. (LXIX, 12, 1f)

Eusebius, however, informs us that Cassius Dio’s “cause” was rather the “result” of the war:

The climax of the war came in Hadrian’s eighteenth year, in Betthera, an almost impregnable little town not very far from Jerusalem. The blockade from without lasted so long that hunger and thirst brought the revolutionaries to complete destruction, and the instigator of their crazy folly paid the penalty he deserved. From that time on, the entire race has been forbidden to set foot anywhere in the neighbourhood of Jerusalem, under the terms and ordinances of a law of Hadrian which ensured that not even from a distance might Jews have a view of their ancestral soil. Aristo of Pella tells the whole story. When in this way the city was closed to the Jewish race and suffered the total destruction of its former inhabitants, it was colonized by an alien race, and the Roman city which subsequently arose changed its name, so that now, in honour of the emperor then reigning, Aelius Hadrianus, it is known as Aelia. Furthermore, as the church in the city was now composed of Gentiles, the first after the bishops of the Circumcision to be put in charge of the Christians there was Mark. (Church History, 1.6)

It is in theory possible to harmonize the two accounts and hypothesize that Hadrian’s declaration of his plan to build the new capital led to the outbreak of the war and that he completed that task after the war’s end. The critical question of what exactly Hadrian accomplished prior to hostilities remains. In the words of one of the scholars W references,

The contradiction can easily be understood if we examine it from a historical perspective. Hadrian declared his will to rebuild the famous and sacred city of the past around 130 CE, on the occasion of his voyage to the east. He may even have accomplished some practical steps toward the actual foundation, including the pomerium. At that stage, the Jews, who could not bear the idea of a new Greek-Roman city being built in place of their historical and sacred capital, decided to rebel. Only after the suppression of the revolt, in 135 CE, was the city actually built.

As is well known, Hadrian accompanied the foundation of Aelia Ca­pitolina by two symbolic anti-Jewish acts. The name of the Provincia Iudaea was changed to Provincia Syria Palaestina, and the Jews were expelled from the city and its region. There is no reason to believe that Hadrian would have contemplated such symbolic acts were it not for the Bar Kokhba revolt. It seems likely that the Emperor intended to enhance his reputation as a builder and restorer of ruined and unfinished monuments and as a benefactor of cities. It also seems likely that the Emperor expected to be embraced and admired by the citizens of Iudaea, and particularly by the Jews, for rebuilding the famous city of Jerusalem, as did the citizens of many other cities, including Gerasa (Jerash) of Ara­bia.

Though such an interpretation cannot be proved, it seems to me very reasonable. The conclusion that Hadrian had in mind the restoration of a city named Hierosolyma is more likely than the conclusion that he had decided on a completely new name already as early as 130. It should be remembered that although Jerusalem was indeed ruinous at that time, it was not totally deserted, and life had begun to be revive[d]. The replace­ment of the famous historical name Jerusalem by Aelia Capitolina was a very severe and symbolic act, analogous to the changing of the name Iudaea into Syria Palaestina, or in short, Palestine. In both cases the Imperial administration intentionally suppressed Jewish national feel­ings. (Tsafrir, 32f — recall that coins personified Judea in Greco-Roman dress)

In trying to make the most of Cassius Dio’s words through his epitomizer, Xiphilinus, Eliav concludes,

67 Such a characterization of the writer’s intensions (sic) may be the reason that, as Isaac has already pointed out . . . this passage, unlike other descrip­tions found in Dio, focuses wholly on the temple built by Hadrian without mentioning any other urban actions (of the kind mentioned later in the Chronicon Paschale).

To summarize, the clause describing Hadrian’s actions on the Temple Mount bears the stamp of a Christian writer such as Xiphilinus (or any­ one before him). This conclusion is derived from content gaps in the structural design of the passage, from its vocabulary, and from the theo­logical tendencies it reflects. Dio’s original version has been lost, but it might be possible to reconstruct it using the clues in the second segment. Describing the events from the Jewish perspective, Dio tells of the Jews’ dissatisfaction with the foreign shrines placed in their city (ίuερά άλλότρια έν αύτή ίδρυθήναι). It may be that the first segment described the same situation, that is, Hadrian’s founding of a foreign city and building a pagan shrine (or shrines) there. In the course of paraphrasing this passage, a later writer turned the situation into a theological confronta­tion between Hadrian and the Jewish God. This writer re-situated the pagan shrine, shifting it from the city in general to the Temple Mount in particular. Moreover, he painted a neutral act customary in the estab­lishment of a new colony in the harsh colors of a religious confrontation by using a “loaded” verb and referring to the temple by a name familiar to both Jewish and Christian readers.67

This conclusion extracts the historical barb from the story of the pagan shrine on the Temple Mount, and shows it to have been planted by a religiously motivated writer. (Eliav, 142f)

W’s view is that hopes for a rebuilt temple were dashed and that the author feared the war would end in defeat. If the fate of Jewish rebellions in the time of Trajan had not been warning enough, it appears that the fate of the Jewish rebels was sealed when Hadrian called Severus from Britain to suppress the uprising.

The historical reference of Rev 11:1-2a to the first phase of the Bar Kokhba revolt becomes even more conclusive if it is assumed that the decision to (re)found Jerusalem as the Roman colony of Aelia Capitolina and, in connection with this, the decision to erect a pagan sanctuary there can be dated to the time immediately before the military escalation, i.e. around 130 AD. Then the statements of Rev 11:1-2a could be referred to these decisions of Hadrian without any problems: The apocalyptist is supposed to measure the temple, the θυσιαστήριον [= altar] and the people worshipping there for the purpose of rebuilding or reconstruction. (W, 306 – translation)

The prophecy of 11:2b that the nations will trample the city of Jerusalem underfoot, robbing it of its religious identity,

. . . corresponds entirely to the Hellenistic-imperial ideology propagated by Hadrian in the context of his visit to the province of Judea, which will ultimately win the day and leave no room for the continued existence of a more or less independent Judean state with a decidedly Old Testament Jewish religiosity inherent in and shaping it. (ibid)

The author wrote the Apocalypse soon after the outbreak of the Bar Kochba war. He used the future tense because he felt its doomed outcome to be inevitable.

A Contemporary Interpretation of the Two Witnesses (Rev 11:3-13)

If we read 11:3-13 against the events of the Second Jewish War the following scenario emerges: Continue reading “Revelation 11: Measuring the Temple and Two Witnesses – A Contemporary Interpretation”


The Simon Bar Kochba Rebellion

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by Neil Godfrey

The types of the Bar Kokhba tetradrachms are eloquent: the Temple facade with the slogan “Jerusalem” is meant to replace the portrait and name of the Emperor (fig. 1, 1-2). On the reverse the palm branch and citrus fruit used during the Feast of the Tabernacles together with date and era are meant to replace the Roman pagan deity and accompanying Latin or Greek inscription. (Mildenberg, 325)

(Continuing the series outlining key points of Thomas Witulski’s case for a contemporary interpretation of the Book of Revelation: the two witnesses being Bar Kochba and Eleazar.)

Back to Josephus. Year 70 CE. The siege of Jerusalem.

Josephus writes that he had pleaded with his countrymen to give themselves up to the Romans and save their Temple. The zealots, led by John, despised his words. But many, including those of the upper classes, did choose to side with the Romans.

(111) As Josephus spoke thus, with groans and tears, his voice broke down with sobs. (112) Even the Romans were moved by his distress and admired his determination; but John’s men were the more incensed with the Romans and eager to get hold of Josephus. (113) However, many citizens of the upper class were moved by this address. Some of them were too frightened of the partisan guards to move, though they had given up themselves and the city for lost; but there were others who, watching their opportunity to escape, sought asylum with the Romans. (114) Among them were the high priests Joseph and Jesus and several sons of high priests, namely three sons of Ishmael who was beheaded in Cyrene, four of Mat­thias and one of another Matthias. This man had run away after the death of his father who had been murdered with three sons by Simon son of Giora, as explained above. Many other citizens of good family went over with the high priests. (115) Caesar received them with all possible kindness and, realizing that foreign customs would make life distasteful for them, he sent them to Gophna and ordered them to remain there for the time being; he even promised to return every man’s possessions as soon as he could after the war. (116) So they retired willingly and with complete confidence to the little town that was allotted to them . . .  (Jewish War, VI – Cornfeld edition)

If the above account can be trusted, it appears that many religious leaders and landowners sided with the Romans and retained or had their status and possessions returned to them at the end of the war.

. . . it does not seem unlikely that many of these “new settlers”, so useful and acceptable to the Romans, remained rooted in their new locations, becoming masters of properties whose original owners had either been slain, or taken prisoner, or had fled the country. (Alon, 63)

Others were not so fortunate:

Naturally, there were Jews whose land was confiscated outright by the Roman government itself. This was the treatment meted out to anyone suspected of anti-Roman activity. The process continued even after the fighting was over. After Vespasian had taken Beth Aris and Kfar Taba in “Idumaea”, having killed ten thousand in the process and captured one thousand Jews whom he sold as slaves, “he expelled the remainder and stationed in the district a large division of his own troops, who overran and devastated the whole of the hill country.” (Alon, 62)


The war thus brought in its train major changes in the distribution of land ownership through: 1) the loss of ownership-title by those who remained on the land, and who could thus be thrown off their property at a moment’s notice; 2) total confiscation from resisters and political undesirables; 3) government lease or grant to non-Jews . . . ; but occasionally as out-right grantees), who would then clear the Jewish inhabitants right off the land; and 4) simple transfer of title from Jewish to non-Jewish owners. (Alon, 63)

In a later rabbinic account we read a memory of those days:

One of the wealthiest men of Jerusalem before its destruction, Nakdimon b. Gorjon, most probably perished during the siege of the capital. After the catastrophe his daughter is found by R. Johanan b. Zakkai and his disciples starving and picking grains of barley from horses’ dung, and, when questioned by the rabbi, explained that the money of her father and her father-in-law was all gone. Such cases of utter impoverishment may have been numerous, while such as continued on their property may also have been many. (Büchler, 30)

But many Judeans were not opposed to Rome and only wanted peace. We have accounts of some of them attempting to undo the marks of circumcision — as well as some being re-circumcised when the rebellion broke out. A Sibylline oracle from Egypt’s Judeans praised Hadrian in quasi-Messianic language. Even rabbinic literature documents memories of Hadrian in positive terms. After 70 CE many Judeans did re-establish a religious life that can be interpreted as the formal beginning of rabbinical Judaism. See articles on Johanan ben Zakkai and related links. (Each of these points could be extended to a post of its own but I am trying to just skim along the highlights of W’s discussion.)

Still, Hadrian’s program ran into a diametrically opposing religious outlook of many other Judeans: Ezekiel 37 promised Israel would be freed from the gentile nations and submit only to God; God would be the one to protect and save them, not Hadrian.

For Thomas Witulski (Apk 11 und der Bar Kokhba-Aufstand : eine zeitgeschichtliche Interpretation) it is important to see the visit (adventus) of Hadrian in the above context. The character of such a visit could quite conceivably have provoked an uprising of nationalist-religious Jews who were disadvantaged as a result of the impoverishing situation following the war with Vespasian and Titus. One can imagine the bitterness of these Judeans not only against the Romans but particularly against their compatriots who profited from Roman rule.

The Bar Kochba Rebellion

The coins and letters of Bar Kochba make it clear that Bar Kochba’s aim was the liberation of Judea from Rome. Coins were dated accordingly: Continue reading “The Simon Bar Kochba Rebellion”


The Bar Kochba War – Background and Hadrian’s Visit to Judea

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by Neil Godfrey

Over 6 pages Thomas Witulski discusses the evidence for the dates of the Bar Kochba war and over 120 pages the evidence for its causes. I will distill that down to a few key points and conclusions.


It is probable that the Bar Kokhba rebellion broke out openly in the spring or summer of 132 AD and that by the autumn of 135 AD it was, if not completely over, at least largely decided. (p. 184 — all quotations of Witulski are translations)


W is not satisfied with many accounts that merely list a grab-bag of events from around that time with little effort to assess the evidence for them or submit them to methodical analysis to determine their likely role as “causes”. The grab-bag includes:

  • Hadrian decided to re-found Jerusalem as a Roman colony, Aelia Capitolina
  • Hadrian issued a ban on circumcision against the Jews
  • Hadrian had permitted the rebuilding of the Jerusalem temple but then changed his mind and forbade it, leading to a violent reaction from disappointed Jews
  • Peasants in Palestine suffered severely from an oppressive tenancy system
  • The destruction of the temple in 70 CE had created a “nationalist” mood ready to respond violently against Rome
  • Jews were divided between those sympathetic to Hellenization and Roman rule and those opposed to it: the tensions between these parties led to the outbreak
  • Hadrian’s promotion of the religious-cultic worship of his boy-lover Antinous.

But how does one decide if any of the above (1) really existed or (2) actually sparked a violent response?

W thinks there must have been something else involved: Continue reading “The Bar Kochba War – Background and Hadrian’s Visit to Judea”


The Two Witnesses of Revelation 11 – part D

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by Neil Godfrey

Ms. 28/1378 fol.69v The Resurrection of the Two Witnesses and the Earthquake, from ‘Histoire Extraite de la Bible et Apocalypse’ (vellum) by French School, (15th century). From bridgemanimages

This post concludes Thomas Witulski’s analysis of the text of Revelation 11:3-13.

On the verses describing the resurrection and ascension of the two witnesses, W judges that they are inserted by a later hand for the following reasons.

The narrative of the two witnesses up to the moment of their deaths is told in the present and future tenses but there is an abrupt change in tense in the account of their resurrection and ascension. Up until the deaths of the two witnesses we are reading a prophecy: after their deaths, suddenly we are in the “past tense” and what reads like a vision:

The next segment of the narrative (vv 11–13) centers on the unexpected event of the resurrection and ascension of the two witnesses as well as the punishment of their enemies. Somewhat surprisingly, this section is dominated by verbs in the past tense, as if it were a narrative of a past sequence of events.

(Aune, 587)

This abrupt change of tense comes with a change of genre, a change to a visionary report:

in vv. 11-13 he changes to the [aorist], as narrating what he had already seen and heard in vision.

(Beckwith, 603)

The imagery of the spirit of God entering them so that they come to life and stand on their feet comes from Ezekiel 37:10, another visionary account.

W discusses various attempts to explain this change of tense: it cannot be a simple Hebraism because the question relates to change of tense, not merely using a past tense to stress the certainty of future events; other proposals fail to explain why a single author would have failed to have reworked his source material to be more consistent with the tense here as he is when reworking material from Zechariah.

His own view, translated, is as follows.

Within the framework of literary criticism, the verses Rev 11:11-13 are to be regarded as not having been written by the apocalyptist, but as having been secondarily inserted into the already existing context by a later hand, without this interpolator having taken into account that Rev 11:3-10 are formulated as a prophecy and not as a visionary report; the insertion was then possibly made in order to align the account of Rev 11 with that tradition which describes the appearance of Elijah and Enoch, offering both their death and their subsequent resurrection, or else in order to present the orientation of the message through the two μάρτυρες as an ultimately successful engagement. Whether the interpolator, who would then have added Rev 11:11-13, would still have been aware of the original reference of the depiction Rev 11:3-10 and its original historical-temporal background, would, however, have to remain extremely questionable.

(translated from Witulski, 128f)

The interpolator was not aware of the original account’s reference to certain historical persons. Such a conclusion begins to make sense of the questions raised in the previous post:

It is also odd that we read nothing further here about the beast from the abyss that had just killed the two “witnesses” or “martyrs”. It is as if he is no longer at the scene to witness the sudden turn of events and the ascension to heaven.

One more oddity: only in this passage in Revelation do enemies of God give glory to God as a result of witnessing or experiencing calamitous events like an earthquake or plague or other catastrophe. In every other such scenario they respond with intensified anger.

The significance of that last point is emphasized again in further discussion below — see text f.

After this analysis of what, exactly, the passage is saying and what appears to be its provenance, W is in a position to demonstrate the historical circumstances that informed details of the account of the two witnesses. But those historical references will have to wait for a future post. At this point we are laying the groundwork for that historical interpretation. Continue reading “The Two Witnesses of Revelation 11 – part D”


The Two Witnesses of Revelation 11 – part C

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by Neil Godfrey

But after three days and a half, the Spirit of life from God entered into them, and they stood upon their feet; and great fear fell upon them that saw them. And they heard a great voice from Heaven, saying unto them, “Come up hither!” And they ascended up to Heaven in a cloud, and their enemies beheld them. And that same hour there was a great earthquake, and a tenth part of the city fell; and in the earthquake were slain seven thousand men, and the remnant were seized with fear, and gave glory to the God of Heaven. — Revelation 11:11-13 (KJ21)
For newcomers to this series, we are discussing Thomas Witulski’s work, Apk 11 und der Bar Kokhba-Aufstand : eine zeitgeschichtliche Interpretation, in which he sets out an argument for Revelation 11 (the command to measure the temple and the two witnesses) being references to the events of the Bar Kochba war of 130-135 CE. All posts are archived at Revelation and Witulski – Revelation 11 and the Bar Kochba Revolt Other posts on Witulski’s views are archived at Witulski – Revelation of John and Emperor Hadrian and Witulski – The Four Horsemen of Revelation 6 See also Book of Revelation

Here we come to a dramatic turning point in the narrative (including a change of tense). Whose is the “great voice from Heaven” that calls out “Come up here”? We are not told. Even the phrase “spirit of life from God” does not mean that God raised up the two martyrs but only that it was God’s spirit that entered into them: the author uses a different expression when he wants to convey the idea of God directly acting. Who, exactly,  “saw them” and reacted in fear is also left vague.

Readers who think the two witnesses are a kind of latter-day Moses figure run into the problem that there was no Jewish tradition — neither biblical nor in Josephus nor Philo — that Moses was bodily resurrected.

One would presume that the voice from heaven was God speaking but that interpretation is not certain. Revelation refers to other heavenly voices that do not belong to God.

It is also odd that we read nothing further here about the beast from the abyss that had just killed the two “witnesses” or “martyrs”. It is as if he is no longer at the scene to witness the sudden turn of events and the ascension to heaven.

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One more oddity: only in this passage in Revelation do enemies of God give glory to God as a result of witnessing or experiencing calamitous events like an earthquake or plague or other catastrophe. In every other such scenario they respond with intensified anger.

Such are the difficulties that concern us but we must ask if they would also have troubled the original readers. Would the first audiences have understood exactly who and what was being described?

Sit back (or forward if you prefer to concentrate) and observe the following case for Revelation‘s two witnesses being an adaptation of another Jewish source document. And prepare to meet a new character in one of the stories, the virgin Tabitha who gruesomely has her blood sucked from her.

After this journey we will return to the above resurrection and ascension passage and examine it afresh.

Analysis of Revelation 11:3-13

The first question Thomas Witulski [W] explores is whether the author was creating a new narrative entirely from his imagination or whether he was re-working a “tradition” known to him. To answer that question W compares 11:3-13 with two similar accounts: the Apocalypse of Elijah and a chapter by the church father Lactantius in Divine Institutes. Can these works be shown to depend on Revelation 11 or do they indicate the existence of an earlier account that we can say was also available to the author of Revelation?

Apocalypse of Elijah (see the earlywritings site for views on date and provenance: W notes it belongs to the second half of the third century CE)

The relevant passage:

My blood [that is the blood of an earlier mentioned virgin named Tabitha] you have thrown on the temple has become the salvation of the people.

Then, when Elijah and Enoch hear that the Shameless One has appeared in the holy place, they will come down to fight against him, saying,

The Shameless One will hear and be furious, and he will fight with them in the market-place of the great city; and he will spend seven days fighting with them. And they will lie dead in the market-place for three and a half days; and all the people will see them. But on the fourth day they will arise and reproach him, saying

The Shameless One will hear and be furious and fight with them; and the whole city will gather round them. On that day they will shout aloud to heaven, shining like the stars, and all the people and the whole world will see them. The Son of Lawlessness will not prevail over them. 

He will vent his fury on the land

(From The Apocryphal Old Testament edited by H.F.D. Sparks)

In both accounts: Continue reading “The Two Witnesses of Revelation 11 – part C”

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