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The Medieval Empire Of Jews

Falsification of the Classical Texts

by Vadim Cherny
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   The historical references to the events of Jesus' mission do not necessarily negate the hypothesis that they were fabricated. Doubts as to the authenticity of classical texts arise not only in relation to religious writings--historical literature also may be unreliable to a much greater extent than it is commonly supposed.

Only a small number of works by early authors are extant today. Could some of those works, with significance for Christians, have been tampered with? Quite possibly.

There were workshops specializing in forged texts. How can forged texts be identified? By font? But it was easy to find the one matching ancient manuscripts. Binding? It was easy to replicate. Cross-references to other books? Creative scribes could make insertions step by step in different texts, and the changes were then passed on. Style? Some gifted writers were involved; remember the vague claims that Petrarch ran a large forgery shop. Basically, it is extremely difficult, sometimes impossible, to uncover a good literary forgery. We must not suppose that all forgers were as clumsy as the author of the Gospel of Pilate (which, by the way, many people considered authentic), whose story of Pilate's repentance  may have been useful to the Church but was totally unbelievable.  It was easy in those days with a minimal circulation of books for scribes to supplement the texts with paragraphs, episodes and entire chapters, introducing the required content into earlier texts. Thus, much of the historical literature supporting the Christian story may be inauthentic, inaccurate or just an outright forgery.

Much of early Christian history depends on the writings of the Jewish historian, Flavius Josephus, which are often the only source of our knowledge of Judaism in the first century CE. First, let us look at the man himself. Who was he? How credible? His biography is puzzling. In The War and the Life of Josephus, he gives varying accounts of his career. Moreover, providing a detailed narration of one's own life is very unusual for an ancient author. It might have been used in order to bolster the "historical reality" of a pseudo-author. Josephus makes some mistakes in his own genealogy in his Life. He first relates his Asamonean descent by his mother's lineage and then proceeds to prove it by his father's descent. Considering that his Life was written as a polemic against critics of The War, we would expect that Josephus would clear up earlier errors instead of heaping on new ones.

This mistake in genealogy is curiously reminiscent of a similar problem with the life of Jesus, whose Davidic descent in Matthew is built upon his father's, who theoretically, according to the Virgin Birth myth, was not related to him. Luke, correcting Matthew's error, established his messianic lineage through the mother. The correlation between Josephus and Luke's Jesus does not end there. As was the case with Jesus in Luke's Gospel, Josephus lectured the rabbis even while in childhood, although this is implausible.

Josephus claims that Vespasian captured him and  took him as a captive to Rome. Why would he do that?  Josephus asserts that Vespasian didn't believe in his prediction that Vespasian would be emperor and even forgot about this prophecy. Did he keep Josephus for triumph? But this action was a revolt more than a war and he could not anticipate a triumph. Moreover, Josephus wasn't noble enough for triumph as a special captive.

If Josephus had been held for ransom, perhaps not by Vespasian but by a soldier of lesser rank, he would not have been held for long. This is an important point: according to Judean Law, captives should be ransomed on a priority basis. Josephus was supposedly from a well-off family and, not being important for triumph, he would have been bought back quickly.

Although Vespasian and Titus were the most famous members of the Flavius clan, there were undoubtedly other branches of the family as well from whom Josephus could have acquired this surname in circumstances other than what he depicted. Later he might have connected his story to Vespasian. Quite possibly Josephus' affiliation was made up after that of Tacitus, who owed his status to the Flaviuses: Vespasian, Titus and Domitian.

Also note that Julius Caesar disposed of a certain tribune Flavius. As a tribune represented the people, it seems that this clan wasn't aristocratic. On the contrary, Vespasian Flavius would probably have been of noble birth in order to receive command of an army.

There is not a single reference to Josephus in the Talmud, although it mentions Roman emperors, sectarians and apostates, and the rabbis hardly would have omitted Josephus from their list of apostates out of sheer hatred as someone they considered a military traitor. The rabbis could have considered him to be yet another invention of the Christians.

Josephus gained popularity in the tenth century when Jews became acquainted with his works in a Hebraic edition. Significantly, this edition, Josippon, included only 16 books of The Antiquities of the Jews, omitting its historical section. It wasn't that history approximately contemporary with the life of Jesus was not interesting to Jewish scholars, they read, for example, The War in the same collection. It may well have been that the rabbis had doubts about the authenticity of Josephus' writings. It is a challenge to find another explanation for omitting such a large part of Josephus' works in the first Hebrew edition.

Josephus' Jewish credentials are very doubtful. Contrary to the available evidence of the existence in the first century CE of the Greek translation of the Scriptures (which Paul regularly cites, for example, and which was needed for proselytes), Josephus, in The Antiquities, asserts there was none and closely narrates the Scriptures. This act by an educated Judean is inexplicable. To be sure, the Scriptures' narration might have been interpolated into The Antiquties later. But perhaps the author simply didn't know of the Septuagint and other translations.

Let us now consider Josephus' manner of writing history and some of the mistakes he makes. Josephus describes the Herod family in detail. Many scholars believe he was largely drawing on a source, perhaps Nicolaus of Damascus' Universal History. But is it possible that an educated person from the ruling elite was not familiar with his country's history  of the preceding hundred years? This era was at a time when there were fewer disciplines and local history was an important subject alongside religion and philosophy.

Josephus writes that millions of Jews gathered in Jerusalem at Pesach.[i]  Such a number is neither confirmed by the excavations in Judea nor, more importantly, by the size of the area defined today as ancient Jerusalem. This number even exceeds the current population of the city, which lives in multi-story buildings in an area much larger than in antiquity. The impossibility of such density is clear not only from the archeological finds but for many other reasons; for example, given the absence of effective medical treatment, any epidemic would have destroyed the whole population.

Generally, such preposterous exaggerations regarding population are characteristic of ancient authors and some medieval ones, but usually in describing foreign territories. Josephus, on the other hand, should have been acquainted with Jerusalem firsthand. His Against Apion confirms the existence of critics. Romans, who had just won the war in Judea, would hardly have believed that this city was so much larger than their own, so, the exaggerated population could not have been produced by a contemporary author knowledgeable about Judea and in a work intended for Romans.

In the foreword to The War, Josephus asserts that the Aramaic original (in my opinion, non-existent) was written for the Parthians and Babylonians. However, the contemporary history does not indicate that they had any interest in the events in Judea. It is odd that he would write for such a minor audience--if it existed at all --while this saga was evidently so useful as Roman propaganda. Note that the Roman Empire depended on cultural appeal to a great degree, and there was state propaganda, though perhaps not as a conscious concept.

Then there is the question of Josephus' style. It does not make sense to assume that the first edition of The War was addressed to anyone except a large Greek-speaking audience. Would not his poor Greek, for which the euphemism original was employed, shock the aristocrats and philosophers for whom Josephus was writing? Can the story about a translation of the Josephus' original into Greek have been invented in order to explain its rough language? Really, is it possible that highly educated Josephus was unable to judge the Greek translation of his own book? Is it not odd that the writing style veers  repeatedly from sometimes reasonably good literary language to a primitive one?

Supposing Josephus wrote for Roman audience, why in Greek and not Latin? He claimed he read many Roman sources; thus, he knew the language well. Why was the Latin translation not done immediately? It is hard to agree with many historians that ancient Romans, at least the upper classes, were sufficiently educated to read Greek easily, especially considering that at the time literacy itself wasn't widespread.

Josephus' repeated use of the pronoun "their" concerning Judeans ("their holy scriptures," "their country," etc.) also raises doubts about his origins. If this usage were a means to distance himself from Judeans, who recently staged a revolt against Rome, he wouldn't have written as an apologist of the Jews. Of course, third-person address was common, but it might also mean that the author was a Gentile.

With a less significant text, scholars might have conceded long ago that work such as Josephus' was a compilation from various sources. Could the writings of Josephus in whole or in part be pseudepigrapha from the second and third centuries? In that case, we would know practically nothing about Judea in Jesus' times. This lack of knowledge would be odd, for we know of other provinces from many independent sources.

The modern view that Josephus borrowed extensively from the extant writings of others indirectly confirms the hypothesis that his texts are spurious. He need not have been an eyewitness, and the author of books attributed to Josephus just as well have could been writing in the third and fourth centuries, if not even later. A few references by Christian authors of the second and third centuries, even if not forged, do not allow us to ascertain whether the text of Josephus, which existed then, is the same as the modern one. The earliest extant copy of his writings dates from the ninth century.

Moreover, Josephus' attitude towards the Zealots and other rebels who led Jews into the catastrophic rebellion against Rome has been the accepted rabbinical opinion, as expressed in the Talmud, from only the third century onward.

One should note, too, that Eusebius hardly would have taken the risk of creating such significant interpolations as the Testimonies, if Josephus' works had been as well known as they should have been among early Christians. Scholars are in agreement about the existence of numerous interpolations in the Slavonic version of Josephus, using the present Western edition as a benchmark. But is it plausible that no one in Christian Europe wanted to amend Josephus? Likely there were quite a few takers. We just lack a redaction with which to compare the standard text in order to reveal the fabrications. Stylistic analysis does not always pinpoint small insertions in a poorly written, inconsistent narration. Besides, Josephus' various stylistic peculiarities could have been borrowed from lost prototexts and, therefore, do not reflect the insertions by scribes.

Josephus' attitude towards many figures is radically different in The War and The Antiquities. Ancient historiography was largely about moralizing; the accounts served to exemplify certain maxims and to present their authors' views. Since the  writer's convictions are usually relatively constant, his opinion about historical personages doesn't normally vary a lot. We know from the autobiographical Life  that Josephus had critics who should have immediately picked up on this and numerous other discrepancies.

Josephus' contradictions exceed even the loose standards  of Greek historiography. Although we admire the reasonably rigorous Thucydides, in fact, most ancient historians fit the facts, their explanations, and especially speeches to their own views and to the purpose of narration. (This practice is also the reason why it is foolish to honor Gospel speeches, dialogues and sermons, at least those longer than one sentence, which could have been passed on independently through the oral tradition.) However, such massive inconsistency in the same writer's books is quite unusual.

Josephus's aim evidently is to rehabilitate the Jews in Roman eyes, through ascribing the revolt and tumults to the cruelties of Roman prefects. However, the repressions that he depicts are not excessive by Roman standards. One needs only recall the charges laid down by Cicero against Verres, Roman viceroy of Sicily. Cicero argued in Milo's defense that robbers' attacks in Roman suburbs were common. We have no reason to suppose that things changed for the better towards the end of the first century CE. However, Josephus, who supposedly lived in Rome long enough while writing the books, bitterly describes the conditions in Judea, where-he claims-things became so bad that gangs appeared even in rural areas. Certainly, this explanation of the unrest in Judea wouldn't find much sympathy with Romans.

Josephus claims that 8,000 Roman Jews once approached Emperor Augustus.[1] Rome at that time was a small town by modern standards. Jews weren't a large portion of the local population. There is no doubt the figure of 8,000 is entirely mythical.

This figure leads to the wild supposition that Josephus didn't know the details of the Judean War. To put it another way, the author of the pseudepigrapha did not know of the situation in the backwater Roman province. And the real author of Josephus didn't know of the situation in Rome, either; he was accustomed to some safe area, perhaps a small Greek town.

Josephus almost justifies the Romans, treating the military intervention as a campaign to restore peace in a province whose inhabitants tended to unrest. This treatment is a standard explanation which morally justifies the aggression and to which many ancient historians resorted. Thus, Strabo lauds Roman aggression against Gaul, thanks to which the latter's inhabitants were able to live in peace.[2] It may be supposed that Josephus' attitude reflects the facts even less than this prevailing moral-historian convention. Even the title of his book, Judean War, seems to be chosen by analogy with the famous Gallic Wars, attributed to Caesar.

Early references to Josephus are almost entirely missing. The possibility cannot be dismissed that references to Josephus by Christian authors of the second and third centuries were interpolated to support his authority. In any case, the citations of Josephus by Origen and Eusebius are defective, which confirm his lack of contemporary reputation since, otherwise, readers easily would have spotted the mistakes in the quotations. For example, consider the probably distorted rendition of the execution of James, the brother of Jesus. According to Origen and Eusebius,[3] Josephus said that the destruction of Jerusalem was a punishment for James's death. However, there is nothing of the kind in Josephus. Curiously, it contradicts another statement by Eusebius, that the misfortune of the Judeans started with the execution of Jesus.[4]

Even the fourth-century official Latin version of Josephus, attributed to Hegesippus, extensively misrepresents the facts and judgments of the author. Evidently, no other edition was known, since the contradictions would have been noted. It is odd that variant manuscripts were not destroyed after the appearance of Hegesippus. This fact undeniably confirms Josephus' lack of influence and the absence of the commonly accepted version.

Eusebius asserts that he knows of Josephus' statue standing in Rome, but this scholar's accounts are not credible. Moreover, he had good reason to argue for Josephus' existence, since so much of the Christian story depended on him and since his testimonial accounts, which directly relate to Jesus, Eusebius in all probability forged himself.

The immensely learned Origen seems to be unacquainted with Josephus. Thus, he asserts in Contra Celsum that 42 years had passed between the death of Jesus and the destruction of Jerusalem. However, from 33  to 70 are 37 years, not 42. Significantly, Origen's statement appeared in a highly polemical tract, where any mistakes of this kind would have been immediately spotted.

Hyppolitus includes a description of Essenes,[5] agreeing with Josephus' text (extending it a bit), but without referring directly to him. Hyppolitus had no reason to leave out such reference, as it would add credibility to his account. Perhaps he either didn't believe in Josephus' authorship or he used the same anonymous source from which a parallel interpolation of Josephus was made.

Significantly, Tacitus, describing the Judeans in Histories V, at first does not reveal any knowledge of Josephus' works, although the latter wrote just a few years before him and was supposedly famous in Rome. It's not clear whether Tacitus' sources for the Judeans' historical origin are rumors or the works of other authors, but his views certainly are in accord with Manetho and critics such as Apion. Tacitus' pathetic anti-Judean rhetoric is suspicious. For all we know, Judaism was very respected in those days, with proselytes flowing to it. This ((respect?  influx?)) is probably because it closely resembled philosophical notions of Stoics, with an abstract God and rigorously organized life. There is not a single hint of his acquaintance with the extensive rebuttal by Josephus. A rampant critique of Judaism better suits a Christian editor who was interpolating text into Tacitus.

In commenting on historical events, Tacitus mentions what is otherwise found in Josephus, but takes these data from elsewhere. Thus he writes, "The kings were either dead, or reduced to insignificance, when Claudius entrusted the province of Judea to the Roman knights or to his own freedmen," i.e., he doesn't know whether there were kings in Judea alongside  the prefects, something that would be obvious to him had he been acquainted with Josephus' corpus or with any other Jewish author, for that matter.

The description of the Judeans in Tacitus is very unusual. Formally, he describes Titus' military operations, but the style is radically different from his normal one. Thus, the next episode--of Civilis' actions in Germany is literally crammed with details. Titus' actions, on the contrary, are not elaborated upon, but rather sketched in a few general strokes. At the most, only the first paragraph is devoted to Titus. The balance is a description of Judea, Jerusalem and the war with specific details mentioned by Josephus:  prophecies of the destruction of Jerusalem, Josephus' own predictions about Vespasian, and Titus' ascent to power, etc.

What is exceedingly important is that, if we remove this odd and seemingly forged short account, the Roman historian Tacitus says almost nothing of the supposedly famous war in Judea, so glorious that an arch was built for Titus in commemoration of his triumph.

A description of Judea is included in the fifth book, although it would naturally fit before: Judea as a military theatre is mentioned already in the second book. The topic should have been of considerable interest to Tacitus, who writes in Histories I that he owed his social status to the Flavius family-- Vespasian, Titus and Domitian--exactly as did Josephus. So, the actions of Vespasian should be extensively depicted, and Tacitus would not have forgotten to describe Judea in the second book. As he did not do so, the description of the province must have seemed unimportant to him.

Characteristically, digressing from his discourse on Titus, Tacitus writes that he is about to relate "the last days of a famous city," Jerusalem. This narration is far too high-flown a description for the Roman who deprecates foreign cultures. More importantly, how could he know that these were the last days (an apocalyptic idiom in itself) of the city? When he was writing, Jerusalem, although destroyed in 70 CE, had existed-and, probably, had been rebuilt, as was customary with cities of antiquity which were frequently destroyed. It was finally (in antiquity) destroyed later, after suppression of the Bar Kochba revolt, and even then continued as Aetolia Capitolina. The days of the city ended only from the Christian viewpoint; for both Jews and Romans it continued.

We may conclude that Tacitus or even his late Christian interpolator didn't know of the events depicted by Josephus, at least not of the events of any significance. Nor did he know of Josephus or his works.

Add the evident parallels between the Gospel of Luke and his Acts of the Apostles , and Josephus' works, as described in the analysis section of this book, and the similarity of style, the literary historiography, and the similar aims--praise of Judaism and Jews (in Luke's case, to establish a respectable basis for Christianity). It seems that the historian and the evangelist have more in common than mere incidental resemblances. Could they be the same person or could the same editor have extensively amended both? This would explain why the "Josephus" texts, although supposedly extant in the second century, were not known to the Romans but respected by Christians.

Today, Josephus is the main and in many instances the only source of information for us about the Judea of those times. Had we alternate sources, numerous errors would be detected immediately in his works. Nonetheless, oddities can be spotted. One of the strangest is his account of the defense of Masada. In the narration, the Jewish heroes, entrenched in a well-fortified stronghold, opted for suicide instead of death in battle. Josephus apparently was striving to show the Jews to the best advantage, but the Romans would have considered this behavior cowardly. Even in the effete modern world, where sparing oneself pain of battle lacks the ancient tint of dishonor, Israeli historians describe such behavior during the 1948 Independence War with considerable contempt. The books of the Maccabees affirm that death in battle was an honor for Jews. Many people were doubtful about suicide, considering it an unreligious act.

The story of Masada has numerous parallels in Greek history: thus the Xanthians committed suicide during the siege of their city by Marcus Brutus. A still more precise parallel (although attributed to the later period) is the siege of the unassailable mountain fortress of Montsegur in France, where the army of the Inquisition besieged Cathar heretics after destroying their strongholds in Languedoc. They, too, committed suicide--quite contrary to reason. The story of Masada might be literary fiction; in any case, the historical record was heavily edited.

Committing suicide when faced with imminent death or losing one's honor was, of course, known and respected (recall Cato or Seneca), but for philosophers and non-military people. Applying this logic to the inhabitants of Masada, we would have to conclude that Josephus or his editor didn't think of them as militant zealots but as religious sectarians, perhaps modeled after early Christians, and the behavior Christian martyrs might have been displayed in this situation.

Having taken possession of Masada about 70 CE, the Siccarii[ii] found the stores of Herod the Great full and fresh, including oil and wine that had been kept for a hundred years.[6] This is an important point in Josephus' narration, proving the defenders' ability to survive for an exceedingly long time. However, Masada is not located high enough to provide for the aseptic storage of food.

Another strange fact is that mesad in Hebrew means fortress. The word is employed commonly with some geographical or other name, for instance, Mesad Hashavyahu. Knowing Hebrew, Josephus hardly would employ a common noun as a place name. It seems that the author of the Masada episode didn't speak Hebrew and took this word mesad, fortress, for the geographical name.

In connection with Masada, let me express puzzlement about Josephus' account of how easily the Romans constructed an earthen rampart to get into the fortress. Even under the less challenging conditions of Jerusalem, without steep mountains on every side, Titus with much larger forces didn't even attempt this task.

In this regard as well as others, Josephus' account of Jerusalem's destruction poses questions. He relates how the Romans surrounded the city with a siege wall. Significantly, a detailed reference to this episode is present in the Gospels in the form of Jesus' prediction of future destruction.

Even disregarding the obviously exaggerated description of Jerusalem by Josephus as a city with a population of a few million, it was still a large place. It would have been impossible to erect a wooden wall around it in a short time. Moreover, the construction could not be guarded effectively, especially considering the Roman practice of not posting a night watch outside the camp. In rare instances, Romans employed not a wall, but an embankment--as Antony did when besieging Phraata. Significantly, Plutarch stresses the huge effort needed for its construction.

Greeks commonly employed this tactic in their campaigns against small towns in the vicinity. Quite possibly, the description of the wall was derived from accounts of Greek wars. The analogy was found in a Biblical text popular with Christians, Micah 5, which begins, "Now you are walled around with [a wall]; siege is laid against us; with a rod they strike the ruler of Israel upon the cheek." This military tactic was reasonable against the very small fortresses of Micah's time but not against the relatively large Jerusalem. The process of forgery seems clear: a Christian scribe found a suitable prophecy in the Bible, incorporated it in the Gospel as a prediction made by Jesus and it was supported by historical proof in Josephus.

According to Josephus, Romans employed a large army in Judea, strengthened with reinforcements from the neighboring protectorates. They normally did not resort to such force. For example, in Britain, Romans employed a single legion. A still smaller number would suffice for the siege of a city with a starving population and small-scale local operations. Actually, a long siege with numerous troops was perhaps economically impossible in a distant province.

The Roman tactics described by Josephus are unusual in the extreme. The Romans employed long sieges only a few times in their history, and only against strategic enemies. They considered it beneath their dignity to win through starvation rather than by force of arms. No other contemporary account mentions a siege of this magnitude.  

A siege several years' long is surely unrealistic. Even a well-prepared city could not stock food for more than a few months, and Jerusalem lacked any reserves. Non-agrarian townsfolk, not keeping significant reserves in households, earned their living through trade and had to buy food regularly. And many pilgrims were trapped in Jerusalem without any food whatsoever.

Josephus' account of the starvation during the siege does not make sense. Josephus explains it as the result of the strange action of the Zealots, who burned food reserves to force the city's inhabitants to fight the Romans. However, the Zealots also locked themselves in the city without trying to assemble a sufficient force for a decisive fight. Additionally, if hunger led to cannibalism, then it did not make sense to enslave the population: not only were they unfit for work, but also most of them probably would have died soon.

In fact, the Romans did not need to wait for the Jews to starve. Jerusalem depended on water delivery through aqueducts. Wells, if any, were insufficient for a large population. The Gospel mentions people bringing water to Jerusalem in jars. The Romans only had to stop water trafficking to finish the siege in a few weeks.

All these facts bring us to another oddity: How is it possible that, only some 60 years after the decimation of the Jewish population during the war and the enslavement of many of the survivors, Bar Kochba was able to raise a force large enough for a protracted revolt? It would be extremely difficult for any nation, in only two generations, to assemble the will and forces for a major new fight after an excruciating defeat such as that described by Josephus. Some people still would have remembered the power of Roman army, and it would have been next to impossible to convince the population of the importance of the new effort. It is plainly wrong to say that Bar Kochba relied on a non-Jerusalem population. First of all, Josephus relates that many of the rural people, who had come to celebrate Pesach, were trapped inside Jerusalem during the siege. Second, if some villagers survived the war, it probably means that they were uninvolved politically, so there is no reason to suppose they would have become more active by the time of the revolt. And there is the issue of the Judean leaders whom Josephus generally describes as shrewd people. As a group they opposed the war, but despite the experience, they sanctioned the revolt, which is truly unaccountable. I am under the impression that Josephus' account of the war is largely fabricated.

Josephus' appeal to the inhabitants of the besieged Jerusalem[7] is simply a literary convention which is encountered regularly in Greek literature.[iii]  The only reason he gives for the war is taxes. He says that, after resuming tax payments, the Romans would retreat, leaving everything intact. There is not even a hint of the other reasons for the war that he cited previously: the destruction of Cestius' troops by the Jews, local unrest, the resentment of prefects, and the refusal to submit to a mortal ruler. Moreover, the issue of taxation wasn't emphasized in the earlier text as a cause of the revolt.

Quite certainly, the Romans would not be content with a regular tax, at a minimum, imposing additional tribute on the Judeans, which was clear to the contemporary reader. Then why did Josephus specifically mention  taxes? Possibly the author based his account on established tradition, the one reflected in Jesus' answer on taxation.[iv] Recall that Jesus significantly parallels Judas the Galilean, who was mostly remembered for his appeal to abrogate Roman taxation.  If a Christian forged Josephus' speech, he might naturally have mentioned taxes as the most urgent issue. This is not to say that taxation isn't just as plausible a reason for the war as all the rest mentioned by Josephus, only that the account in The War is unbelievable.

The Spartan king Nubis started a fire in the city to prevent its takeover by Romans. Josephus notes that the Romans captured the burning city. To do so would have been impossible at that time. Besides, it is not clear how so many people remained alive to be subsequently enslaved if the city, crammed with wooden buildings, was set on fire and no large-scale attempt was made to extinguish it.

How was it possible for the Romans to swiftly and fully demolish the city walls and a tower made of huge blocks, as well as the gigantic temple made mainly of stone? To add to the confusion, the huge dimensions attributed to the temple by Josephus do not coincide with archeological discoveries.

Josephus mentions the signs predicting Jerusalem's destruction: a star in the form of a sword and a comet hovering in the sky for the whole year,[8] although there are no eyewitness accounts of them. Josephus' version remained unchallenged, however, as probably  no witnesses to these occurrences were still alive by the time Josephus' book appeared. These astronomical phenomena would be inconsistent with the traditional dating of the book. In fact, astronomers cannot identify any comet prominent in the skies over Jerusalem around the years 69-70. Moreover, a comet is not visible over the course of a whole year.

Were Christians interested in a book about the Judean War? Surely they must have been: the war was a watershed event for them, demonstrating the death of old Israel and clearing of the place for the supposedly new Israel of the Christian community.

Josephus is strangely convenient for Christians. For example, he demonstrates an enmity toward Herod the Great in The Antiquities for no apparent reason, while he writes with much respect about him in The War. In the former book, he criticizes Herod for disregarding traditions while in the latter he praises his adherence to the Law. This position is natural for a Christian scribe who would want to derogate Herod for his attempt to murder the baby Jesus, as is narrated ridiculously in Matthew. Disregarding tradition is a breach of ethics, which establishes a pattern of behavior for Herod which in turn supports the allegations of murder. Praising him for observing the Law gives Josephus the appearance of objectivity. In leaning towards Herod, Josephus adds credibility to his criticism in The Antiquities. But for Christian readers, observing the Law has no value and doesn't reinforce the notion of Herod's inherent evil.

Oddly enough, Josephus in The War mentions only a few of the Roman prefects of Judea. He mentions Coponius in passing (whom Luke also mentions only in passing) but omits the next three before writing at relatively great length about Pontius Pilate, the prefect[v] of greatest importance to Christians. He devotes significant description of those Romans appointed after 48 CE when they again become of interest to Christians in connection with Paul.

The interpolation of Judas the Galilean and the census provided support for Luke's account of Jesus' birth. Luke placed the birth in the context of the census to explain why Joseph and Mary went to Bethlehem. If Luke drew upon Josephus' account, however, there remains the question of why the details of his references are usually incorrect. It is hard to believe that someone could be so inattentive, although the ancient custom of using scrolls, not books, means that it was harder to find the right place in a text to verify one's recollection, and thus episodes were cited more often by heart.

It cannot be ruled out that Luke reflects an earlier version of Josephus, which existed before Christian editors, attempting to improve them, distorted these episodes. Their corrections possibly survived in the few copies of Josephus that existed,  but not in the Gospel of Luke, which circulated in numerous copies so that it would have been impossible to correct all of them..

There are a number of  unusual elements in Against Apion. To begin with, it concerns a certain Egyptian Apion who moved to Rome in the 30s of the first century where he criticized Jews living in Alexandria. Such criticism would be irrelevant to his audience in Rome. The local population probably didn't care much about Jews, who in any case weren't as important a community in Rome as they were in Alexandria. Against Apion was written about 100 CE, some 70 years after Apion's criticism. Could it be that nobody rebutted Apion in all this time or that Josephus hadn't encountered more recent anti-Semites? The reaction clearly looks tardy.

The same unnaturally belated response is evident in other authors as well, notably in Origen, who wrote his famous Contra Celsum after a delay of more than a century. Significantly, neither Apion nor Celsus seemingly had many (if any) followers who regarded them as authoritative teachers. There was no literature built on their writings. Thus, such a delay in responding to critics already forgotten can't be readily explained.

An important probable forgery is contained in the thoroughly falsified chapter on the Essenes: "Archelaus' estate was turned into a province. .In his [Coponius'] ruling, one known Galilean by the name of Judas declared that it was a disgrace for Judeans to put up with being Romans' tributaries and adopt, besides God, also men of [mould] as their lords. He urged his countrymen to leave and organized a special sect having nothing in common with the others."[9] It is easy to see a parallel with of the actions of Jesus in this text, especially considering many other similarities between the rebel Judas the Galilean and Jesus, who was even from the same place.

The term philosopher, used positively by the author, actually has connotations of freethinking outside the Scriptures in Judaic tradition. When he wrote, "He urged his countrymen," could he have been thinking of the Galileans as the other people (otherwise he would have written "Judeans")? How could Josephus, a Judean, write that one sect had nothing in common with the other ones? Such description is natural only for a Christian scribe opposing his own sect to Jews at large.

The Judas account is repeated twice more in the same book, which is puzzling for the normally scrupulous Josephus.[10] At least one description is inserted inappropriately when he recounts the history of Masada, which was considerably removed in time from Judas' revolt. If Josephus was so concerned with this story, why are there almost no details? It is very probable that the same (necessarily short) fabrication was included in several places as a  result of different editors' efforts or to mitigate the risk of the interpolation being discovered. But the forgers needed a very good reason to insist so much on Judas' story.

Josephus mentions the census in 6 CE after Archelaus was exiled and Judea was turned into a Roman province.[11] After recounting these events in a single sentence, he writes, "as we noted before." There is no detailed description of these events in The War, but only several brief references, so the clarification is meaningless. Considering Josephus' penchant for accuracy, such a blunder is improbable.

Another account[12] doesn't relate Judas' activity in opposing the census but shows him opposing paying taxes to the Romans. The War (2:17:8) mentions Judas' struggle against Rome. The War (7:8:1) is about his opposition to registration. The War (2:8:1) describes his resistance both to paying taxes and to submitting to Roman rule. The authors of 2:17:8 and 7:8:1 possibly drew on 2:8:1. Quirinius is called either a ruler[13] or a census taker.[14] These were different offices, which Josephus would have known.

Altogether different is Josephus' attitude to Judas in The Antiquities (18:1:1): he is characterized as a self-interested rebel, sowing discord among the Jews with false arguments. This attitude suits Josephus' overall view extremely well, since he was very negative regarding all rebels. Other accounts,  which commend  Judas, are at odds with Josephus' attitude.

Yet another feature of The Antiquities (18:1:1) supports the belief that other accounts of Judas in the works of Josephus are forged. Here his origin is stated as Gamala in Gaulonites. There was a town with the same name in Galilee. A Christian scribe, modeling Jesus' image after Judas, would naturally prefer Galilee to Gaulonites, and hence Judas became the Galilean, never mind that the Galilean has nothing to do with Coponius' census in the neighboring country of Judea, which Judas supposedly opposed.

In the midst of bitterly criticizing Judas for political fraud, Josephus suddenly adds that he set up a fourth philosophical school of Judaism, and that he will describe it shortly. And, indeed, in a few paragraphs we encounter the description--but it is all praise by now. The tone suddenly changes and the author extols Judas and his followers to an extent encountered only in his account of the Essenes.

One must be blind not to acknowledge that these are interpolations: a short phrase in The Antiquities (18:1:1) and a whole paragraph conveniently inserted at The Antiquities (18:1:6), at the end of chapter, probably where the scroll ended, thus leaving space to write. There is also no doubt that only Christians had the desire to amend the text and the ability both to do so and to protect the forgery over the millennia.

Accounts of Judas' sect[15] are clearly foreign to the context. Josephus specifically relates there are only three schools in Judaism: the Essenes, the Sadducees and the Pharisees. But he lists Judas' along with them; he notes that it is both significant and reputable, thus making its omission from the main list curious. Significantly, Judas' sect was not ancient and, therefore, could not have been considered authoritative.

Notably, both times the fourth sect is mentioned it is in close connection with the description of the Essenes. Indeed, the author emphasizes that both groups shared the ability to endure torture, a feature which is not essential to their religious views.[16]. This relationship makes a lot of sense, however, when for other reasons we connect the Essenes with Christians, and Judas with Jesus. More specifically, as we believe that Christians were a fringe group of the Essenes, they indeed should be described along with them, but separately. Thus, the interpolation concerning Judas is significant chronologically. The initial Christian scribe was content interpolating one account of the Essenes. Later, when the division between the Essenes and the Christians grew, another scribe thought it necessary to distinguish the fourth school from the Essenes.

Curiously, attempts to situate the fourth sect among the others proved an impossible feat for Gentile scribes, unacquainted with doctrinal trends of Judaism. In The Antiquities,[17] Judas' sect description is exactly like that of the Pharisees, something that the scribe easily could derive from the synoptic Gospels. At the same time, their teaching is so remarkable that the author won't even talk about it. In The War,[18] the fourth group has nothing in common with the others. The lack of detail is compensated for by praise of the fourth sect's goodness and for its founder who was "a well known teacher of the Law," an epithet for the Galilean, which would have made Jews laugh, as Galileans were almost synonymous with theological ignorance. Everything related about this incredibly good fourth sect and its founder is either trivial or contradictory.

Special ties between early Christianity and the Essenes are evidenced by the unusually detailed narration about the latter. Out of fourteen paragraphs of the chapter, dedicated to the Pharisees, Sadducees and Essenes,[19] twelve deal with the Essenes and only one (sic!) with the other sects. It is wrong to suppose that Josephus' audience was acquainted sufficiently with the Pharisees and Sadducees that it was unnecessary to devote more than a paragraph to their description, as he was writing for Gentiles who didn't know anything about Judea.

The description of the sects is misplaced: it is inserted into the account of unrest in Judea, where a reader might expect the details concerning the heirs of Herod the Great. It conflicts with our understanding of Judaism of that time as full of factions, sects, and heresies, rather than limited to only three major groups. In addition to the Essenes, the author mentions only the Pharisees and the Sadducees, who also are mentioned in the New Testament. Other classifications of Jews in the New Testament (scribes and lawyers) are general definitions not connected with particular sects. Thus, there is a suspiciously close parallel between Josephus' narrative and the New Testament. Significantly, the description of the Essenes coincides literally point by point with that of the Christians.

The description of the Pharisees also raises questions. "In their opinion. souls of the good people move after their death to other bodies, and souls of the evil are doomed to eternal tortures."[20] The Pharisees compiled the Talmud where their views are amply presented. For all we know, this doctrine of reincarnation was not common, if it was current at all[vi]. The author of this account is probably mistaken, wrongly recording something he knew  from hearsay, an act we do not expect from Josephus who was writing about the things intimately familiar to him.

Josephus' description of the sects closely correlates with the Gospels' account. Writing about the Pharisees and Sadducees, he emphasizes their views on fate and resurrection. He plainly accuses the Pharisees, the largest and most respected Judean sect, of hypocrisy.[21] Overall, he demonstrates respect for Pharisaic knowledge of the Law, while personally distancing himself from them. Josephus also harshly criticizes the Sadducees,[22] to whom he probably was related by birth, in the higher stratum of society and their relationship to priests.

Josephus extols the Essenes as compared to the Pharisees and the Sadducees. A Christian author, creating a pseudepigraphic insert in Josephus about his own group (mentioned as the Essenes), would do exactly this. Josephus, on the contrary, as a Judaic apologist,  wouldn't denigrate the two main sects who were bearers of the Law, which he admires. It seems highly probable that it was a Christian author who later ascribed the story of his sect to Josephus. To make the text look  more trustworthy, the author mentions not the Christians, but the Essenes, their Judean prototype. He might think that their similarity was evident to the audience, though later it was forgotten. Still, in the fourth century, Epiphanius was of the same opinion, believing that Philo mentioned Christians as Iessaei--Essenes. Characteristically, Hyppolitus named the Essenes the first, before the Pharisees and the Sadducees.

Arguments about Josephus being close to the Essenes and for that reason paying them special attention are absurd, as the Essenes admitted no strangers into the sect. The initiation requirements were demanding, and to leave the sect was practically impossible since the Essenes swore not to accept food from the impure (that is, anyone else). Thus, Josephus' claim of personal acquaintance with the Essene creed is a fabrication. Besides, however small his attachment was to the other sect, a single paragraph on the Pharisees and the Sadducees together is clearly disproportional.

His study of Essene doctrine is rebutted by another account. He claims to have begun a thorough study of the sects at the age of 16 and finished it when he was 19, for a total of 3 years. But he supposedly spent the same time  only with the Essenes.[23] Alternatively, Josephus relates[24] that by the age of 14 he had lectured the rabbis and thus supposedly was well educated in Pharisaic doctrine. Either he lied habitually or his claim of studying for three years with the Essenes was created to give weight to his testimony about them.

In Life 12, he writes that studying with the hermit Bannus (who suspiciously resembles the Gospel's description of John the Baptist) lasted for three years after his acquaintance with all the sects was completed. Josephus asserts that he was led to the anchorite by his utter dissatisfaction with traditional teachings. However, he praises the Essenes beyond measure, writing that the Essenes are so good that everyone familiar with them finds their sect attractive.[25]

A reference in The Antiquities (18:2) to the sects having been already described in The War is certainly unnatural. These are different books, intended for different audiences. Already the length of The Antiquities presupposes a more inquiring, somewhat more academic reader than of The War. In those times of limited circulation, authors didn't commonly refer readers to other books. Josephus repeats himself numerous times in the two books, and even in the same book without referring to the other text. A reference would be characteristic of a forger who was writing while recalling the other interpolation in The War, his complete attention being devoted to this small account.

Josephus writes that the Essenes' virtue was unparalleled among Greeks or barbarians.[26] But he was writing for Jews and Romans who were inevitably dismissed as barbarians. Josephus was an experienced writer, and there was no need for him to extol the Essenes by comparison. But this is what an unskilled falsifier, rapturously depicting his sect, would do. More importantly, it seems that this author lived in a Greek province where Roman influence was not felt and the Romans routinely were not remembered; thus he lumps them together with barbarians. Perhaps he was even writing late enough  that the culture  was no longer identified with Rome.

Josephus recounts the  curious reasons that Essenes did not marry or have servants. Contrary to the description in The War and to common sense, the reason for celibacy is not to observe ritual purity but to avoid household quarrels. It seems like a Christian interpretation. Certainly, the editor faced a dilemma: although Paul praised celibacy, Christianity, as any large-scale religion must, accepted marriages for practical reasons. To admit that the Essene predecessors of Christians considered not [?] living with a woman to affect ritual purity, it would have been necessary to explain why Christians abrogated this concept, which was, after all, quite similar to the then prevailing teaching of Stoics. Accordingly, an absurd reason was invented, one never used before to justify such an important constraint as celibacy. Now it was enough for a Christian to claim that he would abstain from quarreling with his wife to defend his decision to marry.

It is quite the same with servants: the Essenes were forbidden to have them because servants inclined a man to injustice. But the Essenes were allowed to buy goods from non-members of their sect. Accordingly, there was no reason to forbid their buying the services of hired workers. Moreover, since the Essenes practiced some sort of specialization of labor, they could specify functions for servants as well. The Essenes didn't have servants, of course, for reasons of preserving the ritual purity of a closed community. Maybe they encouraged work with the same rule. But worldly Christians didn't accept such asceticism. Because it is hard to find arguments to invalidate this rule or declare it outdated, the editor resorted to creating a deliberately flimsy reason, which was accordingly easy to ignore by pretending  to act just towards  servants. However, this is only conjecture. Perhaps both Josephus and Philo[27] mean not servants in general but slaves in particular, the treatment of whom is unjust by definition.

Josephus' main attraction for Christians lies in his two references (commonly called the Testimonium[vii]) to Jesus. They are so blatant in praising Jesus that almost all modern scholars recognize them as a forgery. The final argument of their defenders is that a Christian editor would not have written about Jesus with such restraint. However, a falsifier would do just that in trying to ascribe the testimony about his god to a Jew.

A version of the Testimonium in the Arabic edition of The Antiquities is much less of a panegyric, imitating the supposedly objective style of a Jew writing about Jesus. He is called simply by name, although pursuant to Judaic tradition Josephus uses a name and a nickname, surname, or locality. Josephus refers to Jesus as "the so-called Messiah." However, this statement does not conform to the theological and political orientation of Josephus who avoided any messianic allusions, as they could provoke a conflict between Judea and Rome. Surely, Josephus, a Jewish apologist, wouldn't write that a certain Jesus performed many miracles and was resurrected on the third day after his crucifixion. "And the tribe of Christians, so named from him, are not extinct to this day" clearly points to a later date. The interpolator was removed from the events by a long time, not some dozens of years, as Josephus was.

An important argument by the apologists in favor of the authenticity of the Testimonium is that Josephus blames the Romans and not the Jews for Jesus' execution, although Church tradition maintains the contrary. But even the Gospels recount how Pilate was complicit in having Jesus crucified. The tradition of accusing Jews became fixed quite a bit later, after the episode already was interpolated in the Josephus text.

It is absurd to describe an evidently messianic figure in one short paragraph. Doubtless, Josephus would have devoted a reasonable space to the story. The abbreviated nature of the account leaves no doubt that it was inserted; the forger wanted to add more information but had only a limited space to do so.

The Slavonic version of Josephus so transparently ascribes Christian views to Josephus, so thinly covers glorification of its sect's leader, that we don't need to repeat here the many studies querying its authenticity. Of course, Josephus wouldn't call Jesus "more than a man." He wouldn't write that a man, who neglected the Law and the Sabbath, had "done nothing shameful."

What is interesting in the Slavonic version is that the story of Jesus' execution is altogether different from the  one in the Gospels. The Judean leaders go to Pilate, fearing the political clout of the nameless hero of the episode. Pilate interrogates him and refuses to condemn him, finding no fault with him. Afterwards, rabbis, full of jealousy, bribe Pilate with 30 talents to let them condemn the hero. Having obtained Pilate's approval in this manner, they crucify Jesus. The absurdity of the description is obvious, as the Sanhedrin didn't have the right to sentence someone to death by crucifixion, at least not for a religious offence.[viii]

The personage repeatedly referred to taught at the Mount of Olives. No Gospel account places Jesus there for a meaningful period. The number of disciples, 140, doesn't agree with versions in the Gospels, nor is it likely to be true, being just one of the standard biblical numbers.[ix] Listing the apostles' occupations (in the other fragment), the author mentions only artisans, although the Gospels insist that almost all of them were fishermen.[x] Consider also the odd silence regarding this prominent figure's name, a reserve unusual for an otherwise bold falsifier.

Is it possible to conjecture that Jesus is not meant here but a leader of some other sect, of which there were a multitude? There are substantial arguments supporting the position that the author of other inserts in Slavonic versions of Josephus was a follower of John the Baptist. In the absence of firm data concerning John's execution and the oddity of his being sentenced in Galilee, where he didn't preach at all, this description might refer not to Jesus but to John. Otherwise, we have to be content with the truly bizarre assumption that the scribe, who carefully studied the monumental work of Josephus in order to make interpolations, didn't bother reading the Gospels, which these inserts were to support. This fact [?] leaves us with the hypothesis that Jesus' followers appropriated the popular story of John the Baptist's execution for Jesus, and John was allocated a different account in the Gospels.

The absence of clear definitions commonly plays tricks with parties to the discussion. Thus, some scholars demonstrate that the Testimonium breaks the narrative, while others think that it reasonably fits the context. The question becomes one of what to consider as a context. Certainly, on a macro level the Testimonium, like the adjacent paragraphs, deals with a description of the events of Pilate's rule. However, at the micro level, the preceding paragraph ends with "And thus an end was put to this sedition," while the next one (after the Testimonium) begins, "About the same time also another sad calamity.." So, the text seems obviously interrupted by the interpolation.

Now, many apologists agree that this is a digression but believe that it is a common departure from the subject, like a modern footnote. But this argument is not persuasive, for in other places Josephus clearly marks beginning of an aside, and after it--with another phrase--returns to the narration.

A similar ambiguity  in terminology is employed in discussing the style of the Testimonium. Thus, apologists assert that the style corresponds to that of Josephus. Certainly his primitive Greek was easy enough to imitate. But there is a more important peculiarity of the style: Josephus categorically avoids messianic descriptions in contemporary Judea. His aim was to present the Jews as peaceful people, not looking for a military leader. In this sense, the style of the Testimonium radically differs from that of Josephus.

The Testimonium is not mentioned by the early Christians, not even by Justin Martyr in his polemic against Jews who asserted that Christians invented Jesus. The Testimonium is first referred to by Eusebius, known for his fabrications, and more than a century passed before it was quoted again; perhaps the amended copies had to be disseminated. The style of the Testimonium is similar to Eusebius' style, not that of Josephus.

Certain caution in formulating the all-important Testimonium is evidenced by the absence of an established version for some time. Thus Jerome, who lived in the fourth and fifth centuries, substituted "believed that he was the Messiah" for the Testimonium's "he was the Messiah," and again in the tenth century Agapius stated, "he was perhaps the Messiah."

The absence of a credible reference to Jesus by Josephus, who scrupulously lists anyone worth noting, is, no doubt, damning for the historical credibility of the miracle-worker, the supposed Messiah Jesus.

Significantly, the most important references for Christians, those to Jesus, his brother James and John the Baptist, are present in The Antiquities (18-20). These books, which largely lack Josephus' special coherence, are mostly a collection of facts and stand-alone episodes. It is hard to imagine a better place for interpolations. Without attempting to recreate numerous studies here, I shall sketch only the main issues.

James is called the "brother of Jesus, who was called the Christ."[28] Josephus clearly understood the meaning of word Messiah, of which Christ is the Greek translation. He refrained from employing it in relation to his contemporaries, viewing in the expectation of the Messiah the reason for rebellions from which he tried to dissuade the Judeans. Josephus supposedly wrote here of current events, whose participants were the members of the contemporary sect. Accordingly, he hardly would have employed the past tense "was called." But a later editor, attributing his thoughts to an ancient Jewish writer, might well have used it.

Apologists believe the equivocal wording of the phrase[xi] proves its authenticity. In their opinion, a Christian author would glorify Jesus much more. But we reviewed a similar argument in connection with the Arabic Testimonium. The editor was not writing freely, since he was impersonating a Jewish author with a known anti-messianic attitude. Thus, he was restricted in the extent to which he could indulge in the glorification of his topic. These constraints led to an absurd position, when the meticulous Josephus mentions the supposedly famous Messiah without comment whatsoever. The mention of Christ without any comment only makes sense if the reader is acquainted with the Testimonium, which is recognized as a forgery. Thus, it is likely that the James episode was written even later and could not possibly belong to Josephus. Rather curiously, hard-line apologists reason quite the opposite way: because Josephus wrote about James (in what they want to believe), and the James story refers to Testimonium, then the latter is true at least in some form.

The episode, however, is not without its peculiarities. As we understand it, the Sanhedrin consisted mainly of Pharisees. But Josephus attributes  the sentencing of James to death to the traditional cruelty of the Sadducees (to which sect the high priest belonged). Besides, attaching responsibility to the cruelty of the Sadducees at large seems to undermine Josephus' point of there having been a specific violation of Roman law by a particular person, the high priest. Many of the Sanhedrin were aristocrats and obviously the majority were reasonable people. They wouldn't violate Roman law even at the instigation of the high priest, especially since he had been appointed recently and was probably not a highly authoritative figure. The Christians, however, hated the Sadducees, who rejected the resurrection, and the editor found an opportunity to smear them.

The zeal of Judeans who sent a delegation to the newly appointed prefect (he had not even arrived yet) to inform on the high priest's violation (sentencing without Roman approval) is puzzling. The execution of a sectarian would hardly have prompted such a fuss. It is also incorrect to explain the problem by saying that the Jews hated Ananus and thus informed on him. Ananus' father and four brothers served as high priests in their time, which points to the respectability of this family. Moreover, according to Josephus, it was worthy citizens who informed on Ananus, because they didn't like the violation of Roman law. In that case, they would like even less the violation of the Judaic Law by James.

It seems that James's name is inserted in place of someone else's. In this case, Josephus criticizes the actions of the high priest in sentencing someone to death in the absence of a prefect, because they are illegal and display disloyalty to Rome. Such an interpretation agrees with the context.

It is not really credible that Ananus would have condemned James for violating the Law[xii]  when even Jesus, the founder of the sect, was sentenced for other reasons, namely, for state treason, especially since James is depicted as frequently praying in the Temple, presumably in mainstream fashion. Moreover, the Judeans considered him righteous, which would have been impossible had he preached the strange teaching of a small sect. Modern Christians easily can imagine that James declared Jesus' divinity, and this claim of divinity was his crime of blasphemy. However, Jesus was deified much later. The impossibility of this accusation is further evidenced by the fact that no one had prosecuted James before in the thirty years (in 64) since Jesus' death.

Unlike Jesus, James couldn't call himself a son of God, because this term was reserved in his sect for Jesus. Besides, there is no direct prohibition in the Law against calling another person a "son of God." For instance, this is how Honi, a famous Jewish wonder-worker, was addressed. Calling Jesus the Son of Man was hardly a major concern for the high priest, who, being a Sadducee, didn't believe in the texts of the major prophets, let alone the suspect Daniel.

Note also that the persecution of sectarians was virtually unknown in Judea; few incidents, like the crucifixion of the Pharisees, were attributable to political motives. The high priests were more likely to take revenge on their actual opponents, such as the Samaritans, whose version of Judaism clearly contradicted the Law. Contrary to the belief of many apologists, Jesus' sect wasn't unusual and a target for persecution. The leader of another Christian sect, John the Baptist, was executed, but not for his religious beliefs.

Still another argument against Josephus' authorship is his mentioning James as "the brother of Jesus." Writing about James, I argued against his genealogical connection with Jesus. Josephus hardly would have used the technical term, "brother of Jesus," accepted only inside the sect and certainly atypical for a Jew.

The Josephus text claims that the destruction of Jerusalem "seemed for Judeans as retribution for the murder of James the Just. for Judeans murdered him, disregarding his great righteousness." Although James was pious, there are many similar examples in Josephus. It is important for Christians that James is specifically chosen, moreover with reference to "his great righteousness," evidently opposing him to other simply righteous (non-Christian) Jews. This phrase is added to the account. Actually, Josephus is emphasizing the illegal actions of the high priest, and Judeans at large are not  blamed. Josephus wants to attribute all immoral acts to lone evildoers and to depict the Jews themselves as a law-abiding people.

Of course, Josephus would not have been sympathetic to the view (presented as his own) that the Judean holocaust and the destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple are retribution for even the illegal execution of a single righteous person. The object of Josephus' disapproval is not so much the sentence as the trickery of the high priest, who took advantage of the prefect's absence and exceeded his power in executing James. Josephus felt that this behavior displayed disloyalty to Rome and could lead to a conflict.

James's story is very important for Christians, since it helps to explain the role of both the Sanhedrin and Pontius Pilate and, by analogy, to open the possibility that there had been a gross violation of the judicial procedure at Jesus' trial. It also implies loyalty to the Romans, submission to their judgment and hope that their attitude toward Christians will be tolerant. There is almost nothing in the episode, aside from what is beneficial to Christianity. The whole text serves to confirm the Gospels and Christian tradition. This fact is very suspicious.

Josephus' account seems to have become known sufficiently late, so that Eusebius cites another version of Hegesippus: James was lynched when he called Jesus the Son of Man during Pesach, attributing Daniel's apocalyptic prophecy to him.[29] Amazingly, apologists often claim the versions by Josephus and Hegesippus are not substantially different. In fact, they have almost nothing in common. The mere fact that Eusebius offered both versions may or may not point to his being the author of Josephus' account (e.g., Eusebius wanted to gain credibility for the interpolation in Josephus by pretending to be the honest reporter of the available evidence, even if it is contradictory) but the important thing is that there was no accepted story even as late as the fourth century.

Let us turn to the description of John the Baptist's execution. The Antiquities' (18:116-119) opens with, "But for some Judeans the destroying of Herod's army looked like divine retribution, and certainly just retribution for his treatment of John, nicknamed the Baptist." It is unnatural for Josephus to commend the death of many Jews because of Herod's sins. One theory is that Antipas' army consisted mainly of the inhabitants of Iturea and other non-Jews, so Josephus had no pity for them. However, they actually were converted to Judaism, and were technically indistinguishable from ethnic Jews. In many places, Josephus is clearly sympathetic with neighbors who thus converted. In fact, in those times the ethnicity of most Judeans couldn't be traced effectively. In particular, the inhabitants of Galilee, where Josephus held military office, also weren't ethnic Jews.

In his works, Josephus often cites examples of the immoral, lawless behavior of Judean rulers, saying that they are the cause of the calamities. This tendency is somewhat curious, although it is often encountered in the Bible. But in biblical times, the rulers were legitimate, at one with their people and sharing their fate. Herodian lineage was by any measure illegitimate, and it is inconceivable that Josephus, a Jewish apologist, would make his compatriots responsible for the evil acts of usurpers.

In saying that John's execution was the reason for Antipas' military defeat, Josephus parallels the connection, which Origen and Eusebius give for the destruction of Jerusalem, which "happened to the Jews to avenge James the Just, who was the brother of the so-called Christ, for the Jews killed him in spite of his great righteousness."[30] Considering that Josephus does not draw this conclusion in his testimony on James, where it appears to be a Christian invention, it is hard to deny that the same reasoning applies in the case of John. Curiously, even in the fifth century, the destruction of Jerusalem wasn't commonly thought of as punishment of Jews for Jesus' murder.

As with many other of Josephus' narrations discussed in this book, John's account here is suspiciously close to what the Gospels say about him. From John the Baptist's teaching, both Josephus and the Gospels draw upon only the necessity of repentance and of turning to righteousness before being baptized. Besides, the description of John the Baptist closely corresponds to the description of Essenes which probably was interpolated as well.[31] Josephus exhibits obvious, if not excessive, exaltation of John, even though he is usually critical of popular leaders. Their very existence contradicts his aim of presenting Judeans as a peaceful nation, not prone to rebellions or disloyalty to Rome. From his point of view, such people are immoral because they endanger other Jews with their messianic and apocalyptic dreams and extreme behavior.

Josephus relates approvingly that in John's opinion baptism is acceptable to God because "the soul had already been purified by righteousness." But, unlike Christians, Josephus did not believe that the people who came to John for baptism were righteous or that they even had repented truly. He is generally skeptical of the prevailing morality of Judeans and doesn't easily hand out the title "righteous." Secondly, he believed he was an authority on theology; and he would have offered his opinion about this important issue rather than mentioning John's opinion without comments.

Josephus is certain that he is right about causes. "For some Judeans. it looked like" is an atypical phrase. It resembles the admittedly falsified Testimonium in its evasiveness and in casting the author's opinion in third person ("for some Judeans. looked like"). Probably the Christian editor attributed this phrase to Josephus, apparently including Christians in the term "some Judeans."

Josephus uses an unusual nickname for John, the Baptist. It is problematic to prove the Christian (late) origin of this term, but the occupational sobriquet is not normally found in Jewish culture. A name commonly was accompanied by the family reference, such as bar someone. But in the Greco-Roman culture, individual  nicknames (derived from appearance, profession, achievements, etc.) were commonplace. Curiously, Christian scholars often agree that the epithet the Baptist was inserted later, however, insisting on the authenticity of the episode as a whole. But, outside the epithet, what connects the John, as mentioned by Josephus, with the charismatic John the Baptist of the Gospels? It isn't a question that the story of his execution is the link, because it probably was inserted in Josephus by Christians.

There is an enigmatic phrase, "Now since the others were gathering themselves together-for indeed they were delighted beyond measure at the hearing of his [John's] sayings.." My knowledge is insufficient here, but it seems that the Greek logoi (sayings) refers to an oral or recorded collection of a famous man's precepts, not to his speech. If this is indeed so, then the author evidently was used to operating with a set of precepts of John the Baptist and most probably was his follower--a Christian.

Josephus declares that "he [John] was sent a prisoner, out of Herod's suspicious temper, to Macherus, the castle I mentioned before, and was there put to death" on the grounds that others came to him. The phrase cannot be explained in the context of the events, for if others freely came to John, they had no reason to be afraid of Herod, and thus didn't constitute a threat to him. The phrase gains meaning in retrospect, as the author understands others as a group, which--he knows it for sure--later entered into conflict with Herod or Jews in general. The author didn't notice how he imposes his contemporary situation on the one he is depicting. From the Christian editor's point, these others could be the fellow sectarians. As viewed by Josephus, such a distinction between various Jews is meaningless. This contradiction is explained so that those other than Herod's loyalists are implied. But it is ludicrous to suggest that the original followers of John (not others) were only Herod's associates. Moreover, if his political adversaries congregated in this fashion, Herod wouldn't have missed the chance to do away with all of them at once, not with their leader only.

What does "the first" mean when Herod didn't have much reason to be afraid of John, having obtained his office in a relatively legal manner? Moreover, he was under Roman protection, and Romans regularly restored kings who lost their thrones after a revolt. The Gospel's explanation that John annoyed Herod by criticizing him doesn't hold much water: unlike Greek democracies, Galilee had no concept of the freedom of speech. John wouldn't have taken the risks of publicly accusing the ruler.

The phrase "Macherus, the fortress I before mentioned" is atypical of Josephus. Indeed, he mentions many places but he did not refer to them in this fashion. However, the forger has one place in mind, and he accentuates that it is not some imagined location but the one he took from Josephus' narration.

Why does Josephus mention an insignificant detail, "sent a prisoner"? This action was injurious, bringing with it the strong possibility of unrest aimed at releasing John. By the custom of the time, Herod would have been better off killing John, for example, while breaking up his followers' gathering. Josephus attributes such tactics to Romans. It seems that "sent a prisoner.and.put to death" are divided in time, specifically to create pause for the Gospel's events of Herodias' intrigue against John.

The factual side of the narrative does not hold, at least not when compared to Matthew's version. Thus, Herod Antipas' first wife ran away shortly before his second marriage or immediately afterwards. As soon as she did, her father, an Arab ruler, drew Antipas into a war over an old land dispute. John was executed before the end of the war; otherwise, there is no connection between his death and Antipas' defeat. There is no time otherwise for John to criticize Antipas for his unlawful marriage and spend some time in prison.

As a matter of fact, Herodias's plot is totally irrelevant to the execution of John the Baptist and not mentioned in Josephus, although it occupies central place in the Gospels. Now, consider that in Josephus, the accounts of Herod's marriage and John's execution are placed together. Though I believe this is evidence that John's story in Josephus is an interpolation, it is possible that the evangelist mistook two independent accounts for a single story.

The problem of John's execution[32] for no apparent reason was clear, and the editor of the Slavonic Josephus attributes to him political ambitions: as a kind of proto-anarchist, he urged people to reject any authority other than God's, just as Judas the Galilean . On the other hand, it is asserted in the same Slavonic text that John was popular only in Judea near Jerusalem, which is incompatible with his persecution by the Galilean tetrarch. To be sure, John later moved "beyond Jordan," but even then, probably moving west, he wouldn't have come into Herod's domain.

The war story is very doubtful. This territory was included in the pax Romanica,[xiii] so that dependant rulers would not fight each other. Josephus asserts that the Romans sent a punitive expedition against the Arab ruler, Aretas, for waging the war. However, he wrote, "they [Herod and Aretas] raised armies on both sides, and prepared for war, and sent their generals to fight instead of themselves," and so both sides were guilty. The last phrase probably is interpolated to align Josephus with Matthew, who places Herod in the palace at the time of John's execution. Of course, the evangelist does not mention this war and his Herod naturally attends the banquet in the palace. But in Josephus' story, it is inconceivable that a ruler would send his whole army under the command of a general and not participate in the operations himself.

The defeat in the war is depicted by the interpolation as divine punishment of Herod for the execution of John, which is inconsistent with the context, where Herod in fact triumphed over the Arab with the help of the Romans.

The episode ends with "The Jews, however, believed that destruction befell the army to avenge him, God willing to afflict Herod." But this statement was written two paragraphs above: "Some of the Jews thought that Herod's army had been destroyed, and indeed by the very just vengeance of God, in return for John the Baptist. For in fact Herod put the latter to death." Such repetition is unusual for the otherwise precise Josephus. Moreover, the trailing version of the thesis is considerably re-enforced. The author is cautiously arguing at the beginning, "and actually correct vengeance," but in the end he has no doubts, "vengeance." "Some Jews" in the beginning becomes "Jews" in the end. The author of a huge work such as this would hardly "warm up" in a single paragraph. But an author of a short interpolation could do so. It seems to me, although I'm not sure of it, that the phrase "actually correct vengeance of God" is atypical of Josephus.

The paragraph on John is too short a description for such an influential leader as is represented in the text. The paragraph diverges from the narration. Before it, "Tiberius, who being very angry at the attempt made by Aretas, wrote to Vitellius to make war upon him, and either to take him alive, and bring him to him in bonds, or to kill him, and send him his head. This was the charge that Tiberius gave to the president of Syria." After it, "So Vitellius prepared to make war with Aretas."

Johannine testimony differs in meaning. In the surrounding text, Josephus attaches blame to Aretas, who illegally attacked Herod on the flimsy pretext of the latter's divorcing Aretas' daughter. This judgment of Josephus is proven correct by the Romans' attitude to the conflict. If Josephus granted that the actions of Aretas were divine retribution for John the Baptist's execution, he wouldn't unequivocally blame Aretas.

Luke, while heavily drawing on Josephus, mentions the arrest but not the execution of John. It is impossible to explain why Luke would omit so important a detail, if Josephus had recorded it. Consequently, it is only natural to suppose that the episode concerning John the Baptist's execution was inserted into The Antiquities later.

It is commonly noted in support of John's testimony that before it appeared in the text of the well-known forger Eusebius, it already was mentioned by Origen. But wasn't Origen edited to begin with? Next, the argument makes sense only if we suppose that Eusebius made up John's reference. But another editor, before Origen, could have inserted it. This approach is not without logic: the interpolation started with a relatively minor forgery about John. The episode was extremely helpful in substantiating the Christian story and at the same time it was plausible that it should appear in a text by Josephus, a Jewish writer, who thus related about the famous national preacher. Seeing that the insertion was well accepted, a later writer ventured forth with testimony about Jesus, hoping that this forgery would be accepted, too, especially when supported by an existing account of John's execution.

Before discussing Pliny the Younger, Suetonius and Tacitus (all who wrote at the beginning of the second century), it is worth noting that when they mention Jesus or Christians, they reflect only the rumors they heard or what they learned from Christians themselves rather than historically verified information about the origin of this religion.

The letter of Pliny the Younger, governor of Bithynia, to Emperor Trajan, written about112 CE, is considered important proof of the early spread of Christianity. It is amazing that one preserved letter--out of the huge volume of the correspondence that has been lost--was exactly what the Christians needed.

To start with, it doesn't prove much. Pliny writes about some Christians. But there were many such sects, such as the followers of John the Baptist. Pliny doesn't mention Jesus. The Christian teaching he describes-to refrain from deceit, stealing, and adultery--could have been attributed to just about anyone. The author is clearly sympathetic with these values, although he tortured and executed Christians who adhered to them. Pliny mentions how they glorify the divine Christ nightly once a year, and partake of a communal meal at that time. The late origin of the letter is revealed by the fact that at the beginning of the second century Jesus was not yet generally considered a god.

Pliny enumerates some bizarre details: for example, that conversion to Christianity had became so popular among all classes that even temples were deserted, and there was no demand for sacrificial animals, although it is fairly well established that Christianity did not spread among the upper classes. The author is careful to explain that these crowds of Christians disappeared when Pliny forbade political meetings-- although they were preaching only religion--and returned to the old rites under the threat of punishment. Pliny's insistence is inexplicable, as Romans were tolerant of cults in the provinces.

The account of the temples' desolation may be modeled upon Acts 19, which describes how the silversmiths of Ephesus attempted to lynch Paul, whose teaching caused them to lose orders for making jewelry for the temple of Artemis. Acts19:26 extends this problem to the whole of Asia.

Curiously, apologists take the reference to martyrs, who didn't deny their faith in the face of execution, as a proof that they were convinced of Jesus' historicity. On the contrary, it might be easier to die for a deity than for a human--at least, the former provides for admittance to the kingdom of heaven. Throughout history, religious martyrs have gone to their deaths not caring in the least  about the historicity of their deity.

Pliny the Younger asks Trajan what he is to do with Christians because, "Who is more capable of guiding my uncertainty or informing my ignorance." But, of course, Pliny himself had lived in Rome before. If he didn't know of Christians either from Rome, or from Bithynia, he had no reason to assume that Trajan knew anything about them. Accordingly, there was no conclusive evidence established and Pliny had no reason for persecuting them or even for asking the emperor for instructions, especially without their having violated Roman law. Possibly a Christian scribe unconsciously assumed that Trajan knew about Christianity and, proceeding from this premise, forged Pliny's letter.

Speaking of Pliny's letter, it is worthwhile mentioning what is claimed to be Trajan's response. It seems that the forger wasn't sure how emperors might write letters. It is insultingly short and it lacks the usual salutations and compliments, which were standard in that epoch.

Trajan suggests that those Christians who deny their faith "shall obtain pardon through repentance." This concept of forgiveness through repentance, typical of Christians, wasn't significant in Roman law, which is only natural, as repentance doesn't lessen the responsibility for the wrongdoing.

Trajan's test for repentance is that accused Christians should worship "our gods." In order to write this, Trajan would have had to possess extensive information about Christians, though even Pliny, who was acquainted with them, knew almost nothing of their teaching. The point is that Gentiles were polytheists. They would have had no problem bowing to Roman deities, too. Thus, the test would not prove their abandonment of the strange faith. Trajan would have had to know that Christians refused to worship anyone but Jesus. And Pliny doesn't mention this detail in his letter. It seems that a Christian author ascribed his own knowledge to Trajan.

Trajan (an evil emperor, according to the Christians) is made mockingly fond of the "spirit of our age." In Christian literature, this idiom refers to the evil in which the world will be plunged before the final coming of Jesus.

Trajan's reply resembles a letter of another emperor, Hadrian, also concerning the judgement of Christians. Both letters are uncharacteristically short. Both emphasize the inadmissibility of an anonymous accusation. Both suggest proving the Christians' guilt before proceeding (although Pliny specifically asked how to determine their guilt without establishing the nature of the crime. Basically, both letters prescribe the conditions of sentencing--which are impossible to satisfy--offering to prove an unspecified crime. Moreover, Hadrian's letter is known only from Eusebius, whose attitude to forgery was very accommodating, to say the least.

Tacitus (Annals 15, ca.115 CE) wrote that around 64, Nero wrongly accused Christians, "who were hated for their enormities," of setting Rome on fire. This accusation is odd, because if local inhabitants hated Christians, it was no trouble to banish them from Rome for preaching an illegal religion. Their religion was understood as being separate from legal Judaism, and Tacitus is careful to mention that he is concerned with Christians specifically.

The term Christian wasn't common in the first century and it is improbable that a historian, otherwise uninterested in the sect, knew it. Hence, there is the possibility that scribes substituted the word Christians for some other, perhaps Judeans, in which case the text makes sense. Tacitus makes derogatory comments about Jews in another place; also, they couldn't be banished without pretext.

He writes (Histories 5:1) that the Arabs hated the Jews with a hatred common among neighbors, evidently not envisaging other reasons for hatred, like immoral behavior. However, after just a few paragraphs he describes Judean traditions with repulsion. Perhaps, being unacquainted with them and lacking a personal opinion, he took the idea from different sources. His having received information from Christians themselves is another possibility. This information would explain the criticism of the Jews, which is based on moral accusations more than on religious matters, and attributes to Jews certain religious concepts that are more characteristic of Christians as we understand them today. One such  belief is the immortality of soul of an executed person specifically, which is natural for Christian martyrs.

After enumerating examples of amorality among Judeans, Tacitus suddenly refers warmly to their religious beliefs and then, unexpectedly, returns to the point that Judean religion is "tasteless and mean." These inconsistencies strengthen the argument that the text is a result of compilation or extensive editing.

The accusation of immoral conduct is hard to relate to modern notions of the Christianity practiced then, as it is generally believed that the persecuted followers assembled secretly, which would make it difficult for them to offend the public. General disapproval probably tainted them later, after Judean War, when all things Jewish were expunged. However, Tacitus was not likely to confuse Christians with Jews, because a prominent feature of Roman Christianity was its spread among slaves, of which Jews were not a significant part.

The mention of the Christian "hatred against mankind" could be applied to any apocalyptic sect preaching the imminent end of the world or even practicing misanthropy (because its members meet in secret and separately from others). However, accusation of misanthropy hardly could be levied against a small group such as the Christians at the time of Nero. Indeed, Tacitus writes that "immense multitude" was convicted, which cannot be applied to a few Christians.

When Paul comes to Rome for his trial by Nero, according to the Acts, he finds no Christians there. It is hardly possible that Jesus' Christians became a large group, and, more importantly, well known and universally hated in the few years after that.

Although Tacitus connects Christians with Christus, who was executed in Judea under Pilate during Tiberius' reign, again he doesn't name Jesus--and it could be a reference to any messianic prototype of Jesus, like John the Baptist or Judas the Galilean. It is plausible that the author strove to avoid too close an association, which could reveal the interpolation. Instead of naming Jesus, he writes that the sect leader was executed by Pilate's order,  ignoring the fact that the latter's name was meaningless to a Roman audience; a prefect of a backwater province, who lived some dozens of years ago, certainly wasn't a well-known figure in the capital. Surely a historian would rather name the founder of the sect than hint at his identity by naming the man who executed him. The omission of the central figure's name is unusual for the normally accurate Tacitus, who routinely supplies a wealth of details.

Tacitus writes about Christians as a phenomenon in the past although he must have witnessed their popularity. The stories by Christians would be the most natural source of Tacitus' information about their sect, if this text is authentic at all. But at the beginning of the second century, any Christian knew these stories, and the value of Tacitus' retelling of them is nil. Nothing suggests that Tacitus studied the archives (if any were left after the Judean War) to uncover the facts concerning just who executed the founder of a sect he mentioned in passing.

Equally puzzling is the description of Rome as a city "where all things hideous and shameful from every part of the world find their center and become popular." Though it was common to condemn the moral condition of Rome, these are harsh words for a local author.

Tacitus possibly knew of what the Christians were convicted. But after introducing the accusation that the Christians set fire to the city, in a few sentences he contradicts himself by saying that they were "convicted, not so much of the crime of firing the city, as of hatred against mankind." This is a significant contradiction, because the false accusation (of setting the fire) initially linked the episode with the context, which lists evil deeds committed by Nero. But then it appears that Christians were tried justly  for offending Roman morality and their execution was unrelated to Nero's false accusation. Tacitus is clear that only Roman Christians were persecuted, although if Christians were tried for setting the city on fire, their repression wouldn't be confined to Rome.

Certainly, it would be more difficult for a forger to imitate the style of Tacitus than, for example, of Josephus. But the style of the episode is somewhat different from the narration. Thus, Tacitus commonly names his sources, comments on their credibility or the conflicts among them, or refers to the majority of historians' opinion. He distinguishes between facts and rumors and does not usually quote uncritically. As other ancient authors, he is eager to state his opinion about events forthrightly and not through subtle shadings of language. Apart from this episode, he commonly states many details. The omission  of all the above could serve as evidence against Tacitus' authorship.

A text which is almost a word-for-word transcription of this one is found in Sulpicius Severus, who is not otherwise known for extensive reliance on Tacitus. This story isn't important to Sulpicius' narration. It is reasonable to suppose that the episode was inserted in two (or more) books simultaneously to be sure it would be preserved; if true, this brings its date forward to around the fourth century.

Suetonius writes that emperor Claudius "banished the Jews from Rome because they had been constantly making trouble, abetted by some Chrestus."[33] That is, he was describing a rumor, indeed, a very old rumor. His informants may have known nothing about how Jesus supposedly was crucified in Jerusalem, but Suetonius clearly alluded to Jesus being present in Rome. The erroneous transcription was not incidental: not comprehending meaning of the word christos, the anointed one, Suetonius calls him Chrestus, a typical name for a slave (presumably because Christianity in Rome was spreading among slaves).

Chrestus doesn't have to be Jesus. Possibly, there were many people among Jews at that time who declared themselves messiahs. The unrest could have been connected with one of them. This would allow aligning Suetonius with Luke, who asserts in the Acts that Paul, arriving in Rome after these events, found that local Jews did not know of Jesus. Even if that story is inaccurate, one wonders when Paul managed to convert to Christianity, become a missionary to Greece, get imprisoned in Judea, come to Rome, wait there for trial (about two years) and convert enough Jews to stir them up into a state of noticeable agitation in time for this unrest to occur during Claudius' reign, that is, before 54. Peter, too, stayed in Jerusalem for a long time[34] and seemingly did not plan to leave for Rome, the city with which he later is closely associated. That means that he must have arrived in Rome not long before this incident, if not well after it, and would have been unable to influence the events.

Chrestus could have been a common man, without messianic pretences. Also, it could possibly refer to Simon Magus, John the Baptist's heir, who came to Rome during Claudius' reign and astonished the Romans by his miracles. In any case, it is unclear why Chrestus simply wasn't executed.

"Punishment by Nero was inflicted on the Christians, a class of men given to a new and mischievous superstition" (Suetonius 16.2). The author implies a considerable group, clearly not a few sectarians, which is what Christians were in 64 in Rome. Possibly this is an anachronism on the part of a scribe, who had in mind the larger number of later Christians, or maybe it is a reference to another messianic sect.

This phrase of Suetonius about Christians seems out of context. Like the Josephus interpolation, it agrees with the macro context, describing acts of the emperor. However, neighboring phrases refer to Nero's actions towards other countries. Moreover, the description of Christians is highly condensed. If it were worded as the subjects around it, it should consist of two or three phrases, something such as: ".who were Chrestus and his followers, what was the reason for the unrest, and only later  that Nero banished them."

Unlike Tacitus, Suetonius doesn't connect this persecution with Nero's false accusation of the Christians, that they set fire to Rome. While Tacitus lists the accusation among Nero's evil works, Suetonius mentions the persecution of the practitioners of the strange religion among his achievements. As discussed above, concerning Tacitus' text, the story of the accusation is probably untrue. But the connection of the episode with the narration in Suetonius' version also does not hold up, for Nero was famous for his indifference towards cults, and without the justification of their having set Rome on fire, he would hardly persecute Christians because of their beliefs. This fact could let Tacitus' editor connect the episode to context by inventing the accusation theory.

Plutarch also mentions events in Judea. He wrote at approximately the same time as  Pliny, Tacitus and Suetonius. Plutarch was concerned with strange religions and, in general, any acts demonstrating morality of individuals and society at large. Jesus' story certainly would have been of interest to him. However, he does not even so much as hint at it. Considering the extensive persecution of Christians recorded in Pliny and the abandonment of the temples as a result of the mass conversion to Christianity, Plutarch's omitting any reference to it is revealing. Most probably, this is yet another proof of falsification of "Christian" accounts in the ancient history books.

His depiction of other events in Judea corresponds surprisingly closely to Josephus. Thus, Plutarch mentions a minor detail of Marcus Anthony's life: along with Gabinius he quashed the revolt of Aristobulus. The ostensible reason for the inclusion is that it was the first military operation by Anthony there. This is incorrect, since Anthony had already campaigned against Alexander, the son of Aristobulus. These episodes are located together in Josephus, and Plutarch, known for his inaccuracy, could be confused. The same type of minor disagreements with Josephus is encountered repeatedly in Luke.

Plutarch records both the transfer of Judean palm groves from Herod to Cleopatra and the report of Antigonus' execution by Anthony, episodes also present in Josephus. Again, both contain the odd story of Herod's support of Anthony against Caesar to the end. But recall that Anthony deprived Herod of economically significant territory. In such a situation, the typical ancient ruler would support his master's adversary. Doubts of the authenticity are increased by the fact that, when listing those rulers who supported Anthony, Plutarch names all of them with their territories (e.g., Amyntas, king of Lycaonia), singling out Herod with a specific sobriquet, "the Jew," reflecting a religious, not political, attribute.

He again singles out Herod, an insignificant ruler of a backwater territory, when describing how Anthony learned that Herod with his army was switching sides. No other king is mentioned by name in this context. Quite probably, the Christian editor deliberately inserted the reference to  Herod to underscore his moral degradation. The episode is characteristically inflated when compared with Josephus, who does not mention that Herod provided military assistance to Octavian Caesar, let alone the size of his legions. On the contrary, Josephus  would only accentuate Herod's assistance to the famous and victorious emperor as yet another means of showing loyalty of Jews to Romans.

Perhaps not being sure of the interpolation's credibility, Plutarch's editor refers to it later: Anthony dispatches Alexas of Laodicea to dissuade Herod from switching to Caesar. But this insertion is totally out of place as, by this time, Anthony has surrendered and pleaded for mercy. To make the narration worse, the editor makes Alexas go to Caesar to plead for Herod. But the latter already had visited the emperor and obtained a full pardon. Caesar doesn't execute Alexas immediately but sends him for execution to Greece, although such an action toward an ambassador was considered exceedingly dishonorable among Romans.

Plutarch mentions Roman legions in Judea during Galba's reign - that is, the army of Vespasian. He separately describes armies in Judea and Syria, while for the outside world Judea was a part of Syria. At least it was under the authority of a Roman governor in Syria. (Tacitus, too, oddly distinguishes governors of Judea and Syria, that is, Vespasian and Mucianus[35]). Josephus distinguished between Judea and Syria, but this distinction is natural for a Jew. In the context of Roman politics, even he didn't discriminate between Judea and Syria.[36] Additionally, during the extensive conflict in Judea it is unlikely that a large[37] army was idle in Syria. Tacitus mentions only the twelfth legion there during Titus' campaign[38], not several units, as Plutarch does.

Adding to the doubts of the authenticity of at least some of Plutarch's works are the variations in style: from moralizing to fact-filled narrative. It is especially puzzling that he depicts even those events to which he was a contemporary witness, as in Lives of Galba and Otho, as if they happened long ago. If we are to believe that he wrote biographies of these two, then I am at loss to explain the absence of biographies of Octavian, Caligula or Nero, whose lives would have been certainly more rewarding for his moralizing. But note that Galba and Otho were especially interesting to the contemporary Roman historians, who were attached to Flavius' clan,[xiv] as meagerness ((the mediocrity[?])) of these two emperors justified Vespasian Flavius in his claim to the throne. It might be that these two biographies were attributed to Plutarch wrongly and actually belong to a Roman author.



[i] The spring festival of Judeans, converted by Christians into Easter, the celebration of Jesus' supposed resurrection.

[ii] Jewish terrorists, known before the war for their tactics of stabbing their opponents with knives they carried beneath their garments and then mixing with the crowd.

[iii] In Plutarch's Life of Brutus, Marcus Brutus was similarly persuading Xanthians to surrender

[iv]  "Render therefore unto Caesar the things which be Caesar's"

[v] In the Christian tradition Pilate is erroneously mentioned as procurator; in fact, at that time the Roman rulers of Judea held the rank of prefect

[vi] This is a peculiar anti-Buddhist doctrine of reincarnation. In asserting it, Buddhism concedes that the best people are not reincarnated anymore, but enter nirvana.

[vii] The Testimonium Flavianum, attributed to Josephus, contains accounts of Jesus and was used to prove his existence. Forgery of this part of Josephus' standard text is almost universally accepted, although a somewhat milder panegyric of Jesus in the Arabic version still allows some scholars to assert its possible authenticity.

[viii] There is, however, the account of the crucifixion of 800 Pharisees by Alexander Janneus. However, this account is very doubtful. Even the Pharisee-influenced Mishnah doubts that in the similar situation bar Sheta would violate the Law by executing 80 witches on a single day.

[ix] E.g., Job lived for 140 years after proving his righteousness to God.

[x] In Dion, Plutarch casually, without comments, calls sailors and artisans the throngs, opposing them to respectable citizens. It's only reasonable to suppose that other Greeks shared this attitude. We are left to guess why such a following was attributed to Jesus.

[xi] He "was called," not actually was, "the Christ."

[xii] The stoning, described by Josephus, was probably a punishment for blasphemy

[xiii] A peace forced by Romans on their subjects; theoretically, local rulers had to submit their conflicts to the emperor.

[xiv] Like Josephus and Tacitus



[1] War 2:6:1

[2] Geography 4:1:2

[3] Eccl.Hist. 2:23:20

[4] Eccl.Hist. 2:6:3

[5] Refutation 9

[6] War 7:8:4

[7] War 5:9:4

[8] War 6:5:3

[9] War 2:8:1

[10] War 2:17:8 and 7:8:1

[11] War 7:8:1

[12] War 2:8:1

[13] War 2:17:8

[14] War 7:8:1

[15] War 2:8:1, I 18:1:6

[16] War 2:8:7 and Ant. 18:1:6

[17] Ant 18:1:6

[18] War 2:8:1

[19] War 2:8

[20] War 2:8:14

[21] Ant 17:41

[22] Ant 18:15

[23] War 2:137

[24] Life 8

[25] War 2:158

[26] Ant. 18:1:5

[27] Every Good Man is Free

[28] Ant. 20:200

[29] EH 2:24

[30] EH 2:23

[31] War 2:8

[32] Matt14:3-14

[33] Life of Claudius 25:4

[34] Acts 15

[35] Histories 2

[36] Ant. 18:1:1

[37] Life of Otho

[38] Histories 5:1

 

 

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