Thesis

In very broad, pig picture terms, what happened in first century Palestine was that Jesus engaged in one course of conduct, the Romans killed him for it, then said he had said had engaged in a different course of conduct than the one he really had engaged in, then pretended they were not the ones responsible for killing him, and then helped spread what they said Jesus taught. More specifically, …

Jesus was a Jew who lived in first century Palestine. He was born in approximately 4 BCE, the illegitimate child of Mary, who married Joseph before giving birth to Jesus. Prior to the beginning of his ministry, Jesus lived in Nazareth, a village in Galilee, one of five political subdivisions in the first century Roman provincial Palestine. Many Jews resented Roman rule, and sought to remove its yoke. This resentment spiked when in 6 CE the Romans took a census for the purpose of assessing taxes. Judas of Galilee led a military revolt which the Romans put down mercilessly and then crucified about two thousand of the rebels. 1 After this disaster, some Jews believed that they could acquire independence from the Romans only with the divine dramatic assistance of their god. John the Baptist was one such Jew. He acquired some disciples, one of whom was Jesus, who he baptized. Jesus, in turn, acquired his own disciples. He preached in parts of Galilee, but not in the major cities. He preached about the kingdom of God, 2 which at the time he preached was universally understood to mean the Jewish theocracy Davidic style. At some point, possibly from the time he was baptized, he came to believe that he was the messenger of the covenant referred to in the Old Testament book of Malachi. He went to Jerusalem for Passover sometime between 30 CE and 33 CE. He disturbed the peace at the Jewish Temple in an attempt to initiate the prophecy contained in the book of Malachi. Nothing Malachian happened. Jesus fled, and hid in the Garden of Gethsemane, where he was arrested and then interrogated by Jewish authorities. They took him to the Roman authorities, and he was ultimately questioned by Pontius Pilate, the Roman Prefect of Judea, who ordered that Jesus put to death by crucifixion, the Roman penalty for political insurrection.

The Romans saw an opportunity. A large part of its empire was formerly part of the Greek empire, and Greeks, or at least peoples who had been “Hellenized,” constituted a large portion of the empire’s subjects. The Romans would use religion to control them by having it admonish them to obey the authorities – including to pay the taxes - and be content with being poor. Many Greeks were looking for a new religion, as evidenced by the fact that the Old Testament (or at least something very much like it and it wasn’t called that yet) had already been translated to Greek (the Septuagint) and the existence of a shrine to the unknown God had been erected outside ancient Athens 3 There was a Jewish sect known as the Essenes who had a messianic concept similar to Christianity. The Romans simply attributed the Essenic notion of messiah to Jesus and obscured his Malachian mindset while so doing. Jesus’ disciples, faced with a choice of playing ball or facing death a la the Zealots who followed Judas, chose to play ball. Tiberius, the Roman emperor under whom Jesus was crucified, subsequently forbade any persecution of his followers. The Roman authorities then destroyed almost all of the Essenic literature upon which the new religion was based, and probably thought they had it all. A Roman - Paul – proselytized the Greek provinces. The same Roman wrote about Christianity, and he did so in Greek, not Hebrew, because his target was the Greeks. A Roman historian wrote about Jesus in Greek because his target was the same. (Some “Hellenized” Jews were able to speak Greek, but not nearly all.) And somehow, the Christian Church concept of Roman primacy was established by the end of the first century.

There were some persecutions over the course of the next nearly three hundred years. They occurred for various reasons, but two of the reasons are that the Romans wanted it to look like they were not the party responsible for the propagation of Christianity and they knew that there would be a backlash that would tend to propagate Christianity. Finally, after nearly three hundred years, the Roman emperor Constantine made Christianity the official religion of his empire.

The remainder of the site is devoted to demonstrating the accuracy of the thesis. It begins with a thumbnail sketch of basic Judaism. The role of the prophets is particularly important. It then notes the existence of four different sects of Judaism and provides a brief description of their belief systems. The political setting of Jesus’ life is then summarized, with some focus given to the change in attitude of three categories of people with respect to Jesus personally as opposed to his following after his death. Next, the emergence of a worldview called “apocalyptic will be illustrated. Finally, and most importantly, specific examples will be provided of the evolution of Jesus mindset from Malachian to the modern conception of “Messiah.”

Judaism

Jesus was a Jew who lived in first century Palestine. Thus, in order to understand Jesus, it is necessary to understand Jews of that era. To understand the Jews of Jesus’ era, it is necessary to know something of their history and theology. Sources for Hebrew history and theology at the time of Jesus were the Tanakh, or at least something that looked very much like it,4 more than several other books which are not now canonical, e.g.Enoch, and oral tradition. Neither the Babylonian Talmud nor the Jerusalem Talmud had yet been compiled. First century CE historians include Flavius Josephus, Tacitus, Pliny the Elder, and Pliny the Younger. Here are some basics. The history of the Jews begins with Abraham. Sometime between about 1950 - 1925 BCE, Abraham (then named Abram), was relocated via a circuitous route by his father along with the rest of his family from Ur, a city in Mesopotamia to Harran, a city in Canaan. 5 Jews believe that their god appeared to Abraham and directed him to relocate once again, this time to Canaan (the Promised Land), and promised to make Abraham’s descendants a great nation. 6 This promise was passed from Abraham to his son Isaac, and then from Isaac to his son Jacob. Jacob is known as the father of Israel, and the twelve tribes of Israel were named after his twelve sons. There was a great famine approximately 1700 BCE in the land of the Hebrews, and many relocated to Egypt, where they enjoyed the favor of the Egyptian pharaohs due to Joseph, the son of Jacob, who is reported to have been sold into slavery by his brothers. This ends the Patriarch Tradition, as well as the Book of Genesis.

In about 1550 BCE, Amosis, the “Pharaoh who knew not Joseph” 7 destroyed the last of the Semitic strongholds around Tanis. The Hebrews that were not slaughtered either fled to Canaan, or were permitted to live as serfs in the vicinity of Tanis, or were enslaved. 8 His successor, Sethos I, began to rebuild Tanis sometime after 1309. Slave labor was utilized. This rebuilding project was continued by Sethos’ son and successor, Ramses II, who came to power circa 1280 BCE. Ramses II was the Exodus pharaoh. The Exodus, led by one of Judaism’s most revered figures, Moses, occurred circa 1250 BCE. It involved the successful departure of the Hebrews from Egypt and was reportedly aided by the divine dramatic intervention of the Hebrew god. This intervention included ten plagues reported to have been visited upon the Egyptians, the last of which was death of the Egyptian first-born. The Hebrew god reportedly knew to “pass over” the Hebrew households because they were marked with the blood of sacrificial lambs. After this last plague, Ramses is reported to have agreed to let the Hebrews leave, but then changed his mind once they did. His army was sent to pursue the Hebrews. Moses is reported to have invoked the power of the Hebrew deity to part the waters of the Red Sea so as to enable the Hebrews to pass through. When pharaoh’s army pursued, the waters closed, and accordingly the Hebrews were able to escape. Thus ends the Exodus Tradition.

The third tradition of the Torah - the first five books of the Tanakh (if you’re Jewish) or Old Testament (if you’re Christian) - is the Sinai Tradition. It involves the Hebrew god giving Moses the law on Mt. Sinai. About three months after exiting Egypt, the Israelites camped at the foot of Mt. Sinai and Moses went up the mountain where after a display of thunder, lightning, and trumpet blasts Moses was given the law, including the Ten Commandments. The Ten Commandments were etched on stone tablets that were placed in a wooden ark now known as the Ark of the Covenant. Most importantly, what is now known as the Sinai Covenant was agreed upon. The basic terms of this covenant were that the Hebrew god promised to see to it that the Hebrews prospered so long as they obeyed his commandments. 9 This covenant has always been and remains today the essence of the Jewish world view.

The fourth tradition contained in the Torah is known as the Wilderness Tradition. It involves the forty-year period between the actual Exodus from Egypt and the Israelite entry into the land of Canaan. During this interim, the Hebrews wandered in the wilderness after having been too afraid to enter Canaan immediately upon – or at least shortly after - exiting Egypt. According to the Biblical accounts, they existed on manna, reported to have rained down from the sky and to have looked like coriander seed and tasted like wafers made with honey.

The Settlement Tradition begins in the Torah, but the actual settlement begins with the book entitled Joshua. According to Jewish scripture, the settlement of Canaan was achieved militarily. It began when Joshua succeeded Moses after his death and led the Israelites through the Jordan River (the waters parted again) and laid siege to the city of Jericho. After marching around the city for seven days while carrying the Ark of the Covenant, the priests blew their horns, the people shouted, and the wall collapsed, at which time the Israelites stormed the city. The remainder of the county is reported to have been taken by two separate military campaigns in the south and the north. 10

The Hebrews did not name a king immediately upon settling. For a period from about 1200 BCE until about 1046 BCE, the Israelites were governed by various judges. These were not guys in black robes who ruled over courtrooms, but rather were military leaders. There were twelve judges in total mentioned in the Biblical book of Judges, perhaps the most well-known of which was Samson. There were more judges, the most significant of whom was Samuel. The Hebrew people wanted a king, and Saul was appointed king by Samuel circa 1250 BCE. Samuel subsequently died. To make a long story short, Saul fell from favor with the Hebrew god, and thus the Hebrew people. In a most interesting passage, Saul visits a necromancer in the city of Endor, and asked her to summon Samuel from Sheol, which the Hebrews of that era believed was the common resting place for the dead, no matter how good or how bad their lives on earth. The witch is reported to have done so, and Samuel is reported to have appeared and informed Saul of his imminent demise. Meanwhile, young David’s favor with his god and the Hebrew people grew rapidly, and when Saul was killed in battle, he became king.

The years during the reign of David are the glory years of the Jews. He ruled from about 1010 BCE to about 970 BCE. He was famed both as a warrior and as an empire builder. It was David who slew the Philistine Goliath. It was under David that the city of Jerusalem was conquered and became the Jewish capitol. It was David who had the Ark of the Covenant brought to Jerusalem and placed in a tabernacle until a temple could be built. Under his rule, the Jews became “the big kid on the block,” so to speak. They were more powerful than Egypt, Babylonia, Assyria, and Phoenicia. Within Judaism, the “line of David” became synonymous with kingly ancestry. That geometric figure seen on the contemporary Israeli flag is known as “the Star of David.” However, even though David is reputed to have been highly favored by the Hebrew god, he was not permitted to build the temple due to his relationship with Bathsheba, the wife of Uriah, who David sent into battle knowing he would be killed. He is credited with having written many of the psalms contained in the biblical book of Psalms.

David was succeeded by Solomon, his son by Bathsheba. Solomon ruled for about forty years, and his rule is marked by prosperity and the building of the first temple, which the Babylonians under Nebuchadnezzar destroyed in 586 BCE. He is credited with having written three biblical books: Proverbs, Song of Songs, and Ecclesiastes.

After the passing of Solomon, the Hebrew kingdom was split into two parts – Judah and Israel. (“Israel” as used here refers to the Northern Kingdom of the Hebrews – Judah refers to the Southern Kingdom, which contained Jerusalem. This can get confusing since it can also refer to Jacob and his descendants collectively.) It was all downhill from there. The Assyrians conquered Israel in 722 BCE. Its entire population was deported to Assyria, and is now referred to as the Ten Lost Tribes of Israel. The Babylonians conquered Judah and destroyed the first temple in 586 BCE. The upper tier of Judean society was deported to Babylon. Babylon fell to the Persians in 538 BCE. At this point, Judaism collided with Zoroastrianism, the religion of the Persians. Cyrus, who the book of Isaiah calls “God’s anointed,” permitted the Jews being held in Babylon return to their homeland. Cyrus also let the Jews rebuild their temple, a project which they completed in 515 BCE. Then circa 330 BCE, Alexander the Great reduced Judah to a vassal state and exacted tribute from it. Upon the death of Alexander, the right to exact tribute fell to his general Ptolemy. The Ptolemies ruled until 198 BCE. Under Ptolemy rule, the Jews were permitted to practice their religion, but were required to pay tribute. In 198 BCE, the Seleucids took over, and things got a little more interesting. The Seleucids, especially Antiochus Epiphanes IV, instituted a program of Hellenization. That is to say, they tried to induce the Jews to forsake their culture, including Judaism, and adopt Greek culture. At one point, Greeks – with their uncircumcised penises - were even performing gymnastics in a gymnasium adjacent to the temple in the nude. The attempt at Hellenization caused a revolt led by Judah Maccabeus and his four brothers. The revolt was successful as far as regaining the right to worship was concerned. Things got even better for the Jews when the Seleucid Empire disintegrated. The Jews became autonomous, and were able to re store much of the territory of their kingdom as it existed under David and Solomon.

The Romans invaded in 63 CE. And Palestine became a Roman territory, and was such at the birth of Jesus. Upon conquering Israel in 63 BCE, the Roman general Pompey appointed both the high priest and a military governor. Antipater (the Idumaean), the military governor appointee, was subsequently appointed chief minister by Julius Caesar after his rise to power. Antipater, in turn, appointed his sons Phasaelus and Herod the Governors of Jerusalem and Galilee respectively. Herod, known as Herod the Great, ultimately ruled all of Palestine as a client of Caesar Augustus. When he died, his client kingdom was divided into five sections, and five chief ministers governed. The two sections relevant to the life of Jesus – Judaea and Galilee – were given to Archelaus and Antipater, respectively.

Rome had held the reins fairly loosely until shortly after the birth of Jesus. So long as the territory paid its tribute and supported Roman policy, it remained close to autonomous within its own borders. However, in 6 CE, Archelaus was removed and Rome began to rule Judaea directly. Quirinius was appointed to govern it, and he ordered a census for the purpose of assessing taxation. At this juncture, Judas the Galilean led a revolt which the Romans mercilessly put down. Thousands of the rebels were executed.

The Old Testament contains sixteen prophetic books designated by names of prophets (sort of, as we shall see). Four of these are designated major prophets and twelve are designated minor prophets. Although prophesying could be part of a prophet’s job description, their primary function was to convey to the Hebrew people what the Hebrew god wanted them to know. They were explicitly charged with this duty in the Torah:

I will raise up for them a prophet like you from among their fellow Israelites, and I will put my words in his mouth. He will tell them everything I command him. I myself will call to account anyone who does not listen to my words that the prophet speaks in my name. 11

Recall the terms of the covenant. In it, the Hebrew god promised that the Hebrews would prosper so long as they obeyed his commandments. The Hebrews thought that if they were not doing well as a people, then their god was not taking care of them, and if their god was not taking care of them then it followed that they were somehow not living up to their end of the bargain. It was the task of the prophets to determine exactly how the Hebrews were failing to live up to their end of the bargain, and what they had to do to bring themselves into compliance.

Two prophets are of particular importance here. First is Isaiah, especially the final fifteen chapters of the book of Isaiah, which is sometimes called Deutero-Isaiah. These chapters are attributed to an anonymous prophet who prophesied shortly before the Hebrews were permitted by Cyrus to return to Judah from Babylon. This guy had a particularly difficult job. His task was how to explain the fact that the Jews were released from captivity and the temple was to be rebuilt not by either the military might of the Hebrews or the divine dramatic intervention of their god, but rather by the grace of a non-Hebrew, specifically Cyrus, king of the Persians, who did not believe in the Hebrew god. Deutero-Isaiah’s solution was to assert that the Hebrew god was using Cyrus as his agent. 12 It is particularly important to note that Isaiah 45:1 refers to Cyrus as “[the Lord’s] anointed.” The Hebrew word for “anointed” is “meshiah,” from which the word “messiah” is derived. It is thus seen that the specific situation calling for the prophecy of Isaiah was resolved.

The other prophet of particular importance here also wrote anonymously. The book that he wrote is called Malachi, which is Hebrew for “my messenger.” Because the author criticized both priests and rulers of the Hebrews, and because he did not enjoy the stature of either Ezra or Nehemiah, he did not want his identity known. The book was written shortly before the arrival of Nehemiah in Jerusalem circa 445 BCE. The Hebrews of that era were disappointed that the glory predicted by minor prophets Haggai and Zechariah had yet to occur and accordingly began to doubt their god. Malachi identified three problems which the author said had undermined the relationship between the Hebrew god and his people. The first problem listed was impure offerings, 13 the second was the profession of false doctrine by the priests,14 and the third was divorce. 15

The passage which states “I hate divorce” is more interesting than it appears to be on the surface because divorce was clearly permitted under Mosaic Law. However, by far the most interesting thing about Malachi is the prediction of how the Hebrew god would remedy the situation. Malachi 3:23 says: "Lo I will send you Elijah the prophet, before the day of the Lord comes, the great and terrible day...." It is thus necessary to determine what is meant by "the day of the Lord, the great and terrible day." The coming of that day is prophesied in Malachi 3:1: "Lo, I am sending my messenger to prepare the way before me; And suddenly there will come to the temple the Lord whom you seek, And the messenger of the covenant whom you desire. (Emphasis added.) Yes, he is coming, says the Lord of hosts." Malachi 3:2 then begins a description of the greatness and terribleness of this prophesied event.

Note at this point that either the phrases "the Lord" and "the messenger of the covenant" are intended to refer to the same entity or Malachi 3:1 envisions the appearance of two entities at the temple - that of "the Lord" and that of "the messenger of the covenant." The former possibility is excluded by the language used at the beginning of the chapter, since the concept of the Lord "sending" himself to prepare the way for himself is untenable. It is thus safe to conclude that Malachi envisioned the appearance of two separate entities in the temple on the great and terrible day of the Lord - both the Lord and his messenger of the covenant. Note also that unlike the specific situation calling for the Deutero-Isaiah prophecy being specifically resolved by Cyrus, the Lord’s anointed, the prophecy uttered in Malachi had yet to occur at the time of Jesus.

First century CE Jews were obligated to visit the temple three times per year for what are now called the pilgrimage festivals. One of these was Passover, which commemorated the Hebrew firstborns’ survival of the tenth plague preceding the Exodus. Jesus chose Passover as the time to trash the Temple. The other two festivals were Shavuot and Sukkoth. This, then, is the whirlwind tour of the first two thousand years of Jewish history and the Jewish religion. Note that the Tanakh, or at least something very close to it, existed at the time of Jesus.

Four Sects

To understand the Jews of Jesus’ era, it is necessary to know of the various sects of his day, especially their respective views regarding afterlife. There were four: the Sadducees, the Pharisees, the Zealots, and the Essenes. The Sadducees had the most political clout. During Jesus’ time the High Priest was a Sadducee, and the Sanhedrin (the governing body) was controlled by the Sadducees. 16 They did not believe in resurrection. According to Josephus, “But the doctrine of the Sadducees is this: That souls die with the bodies” 17 The Pharisees did believe resurrection. According to Josephus,

They also believe that souls have an immortal rigor in them, and that under the earth there will be rewards or punishments, according as they have lived virtuously or viciously in this life; and the latter are to be detained in an everlasting prison, but that the former shall have power to revive and live again. 18

The Zealots, according once again to Josephus, did believe in resurrection. He wrote, “These men agree in all other things with the Pharisaic notions.” 19 The Essenes also believed in resurrection. Josephus wrote:

The doctrine of the Essens is this: That all things are best ascribed to God. They teach the immortality of souls, and esteem that the rewards of righteousness are to be earnestly striven for; and when they send what they have dedicated to God into the temple, they do not offer sacrifices because they have more pure lustrations of their own; on which account they are excluded from the common court of the temple, but offer their sacrifices themselves; yet is their course of life better than that of other men; and they entirely addict themselves to husbandry. It also deserves our admiration, how much they exceed all other men that addict themselves to virtue, and this in righteousness; and indeed to such a degree, that as it hath never appeared among any other men, neither Greeks nor barbarians, no, not for a little time, so hath it endured a long while among them. This is demonstrated by that institution of theirs, which will not suffer any thing to hinder them from having all things in common; so that a rich man enjoys no more of his own wealth than he who hath nothing at all. There are about four thousand men that live in this way, and neither marry wives, nor are desirous to keep servants; as thinking the latter tempts men to be unjust, and the former gives the handle to domestic quarrels; but as they live by themselves, they minister one to another. They also appoint certain stewards to receive the incomes of their revenues, and of the fruits of the ground; such as are good men and priests, who are to get their corn and their food ready for them. They none of them differ from others of the Essens in their way of living, but do the most resemble those Dacae who are called Polistae [dwellers in cities]. (Emphasis added.)20

Although the Sadducees, Pharisees, and Zealots all get a mention in the New Testament, the Essenes for some reason do not. However, Josephus, Pliny the Elder, and Philo all note the existence of the Essenes in their works. The Essenes were predominantly a priestly group which did not recognize the authority of the Temple. Some of the more radical members withdrew from mainstream Jewish society. 21 The scholarly consensus is that they established their home at Qumran, a location near the Dead Sea. This is near where the collection of documents now known as the Dead Sea Scrolls was found. The scholarly consensus is that the Dead Sea Scrolls were written by, studied, interpreted, and hidden by the Essenes. It is assumed here that the consensus is correct. However it is important to note that for the purpose of this site, the consensus need not be correct. The only important thing is that whoever wrote them did so at some time before Jesus.

It is difficult to understate the importance of Essene theology (again, assuming them to be the authors of certain scrolls amongst those known as the Dead Sea Scrolls) to the New Testament. It contains more than several key features. Several of these follow. First of all, they employed a new concept regarding interpretation of the Old Testament. As has been stated, with the exception of Malachi, the situations giving rise to the so-called prophecies contained in the books of the prophets had already been resolved, for example, the situation in Isaiah. That did not matter to the Essenes. They frequently extracted so-called prophecy applicable to past situations and applied them to their time. In the words of one author, “[t]he Qumran commentator [was] not at all interested in the historical and social context of the biblical prophecy. For him, every word of Scripture was pregnant with meaning for his own day, and it [was] in its contemporary relevance that the interpreter [was] interested.” 22 Secondly, they had a messianic expectation. The consensus holds that they were anticipating two messiahs, one priestly, and the other kingly. The kingly messiah was to be a descendant of David. (ftnt prophecy) Finally, one of the scrolls denominated the Messianic Banquet states that God would beget the Davidic Messiah.23 The communal nature of the Qumran community should also be noted. Indeed, the theology of the New Testament is close enough to that of the Essenes that there are those who say John the Baptist was an Essene and that Jesus was an Essene. (The reader can find discussion along this line all over the internet.)

Political Setting

At the time of Jesus, Palestine was a Roman territory, and had been since 63 BCE. Upon conquering Israel in 63 BCE, the Roman general Pompey appointed both the high priest and a military governor. Antipater (the Idumaean), the military governor appointee, was subsequently appointed chief minister by Julius Caesar after his rise to power. Antipater, in turn, appointed his sons Phasaelus and Herod the Governors of Jerusalem and Galilee respectively. Herod, known as Herod the Great, ultimately ruled all of Palestine as a client of Caesar Augustus. When he died, his client kingdom was divided into five sections, and five chief ministers governed. The two sections relevant to the life of Jesus – Judaea and Galilee – were given to Archelaus and Antipater (called King Herod in the New Testament), respectively. Antipater governed Galilee throughout the life of Jesus. Archelaus was, for whatever reason, not so successful, and was deposed in 6 CE. After he was deposed, Rome annexed Judea to Syria and governed it directly through an administrator with the title “prefect.” The hierarchy was Emperor – Legate of Syria – Prefect of Judea. Quirinius was appointed to governor of Syria, and he ordered a census for the purpose of assessing taxation. At this juncture, as was previously stated, Judas of Galilee led a revolt which the Romans mercilessly put down.

Thus, although both regions were part of both Palestine and the Roman Empire, the rules were different in Galilee and Judea. In Galilee, Antipater enjoyed substantial autonomy, so long as he paid tribute to and cooperated with Rome. Judea, on the other hand, was governed by the High Priest – who was appointed by the Roman emperor - and the Sanhedrin. He, like Antipater, appeared to enjoy substantial autonomy, but was always subject to replacement. Only the prefect had the right to sentence anyone to death. 24 The High Priest at the time of Jesus crucifixion was Caiaphas. The prefect who ordered Jesus execution for sedition was Pontius Pilate. The Emperor was Tiberius.

The dynamic between Tiberius and Pilate and Caiaphas is worthy of early consideration. Pilate was an administrator, not a policy maker. Policy was a matter for Rome and the emperor. Tiberius was emperor from 14 CE to 37 CE. Pilate was prefect of Judea from 26 CE to 36 or 37 CE. Of all prefects and procurators of Judea, Pilate had the second longest tenure, behind only his immediate predecessor, Valerius Gratis, who enjoyed a tenure of eleven years. The average tenure of all of the prefects / procurators prior to the first Jewish war was only four years. Tiberius could not have thought too badly about Pilate. According to Josephus, Pilate’s tenure ended when he was recalled to Rome due to his handling of a disturbance involving a group of armed Samaritans. 25 Tiberius was still alive when Pilate was removed, but died before Pilate got to Rome. 26 From the fact of Pilate’s eventual removal can be inferred that Tiberius was not per se averse to removing Pilate. Tiberius certainly knew about Jesus after the fact. Eusebius tells us:

But although the Senate of the Romans rejected the proposition made in regard to our Savior, Tiberius still retained the opinion which he had held at first, and contrived no hostile measures against Christ. These things are recorded by Tertullian, a man well versed in the laws of the Romans, and in other respects of high repute, and one of those especially distinguished in Rome. … Tiberius, therefore, under whom the name of Christ made its entry into the world, when this doctrine was reported to him from Palestine, where it first began, communicated with the Senate, making it clear to them that he was pleased with the doctrine. But the Senate, since it had not itself proved the matter, rejected it. But Tiberius continued to hold his own opinion, and threatened death to the accusers of the Christians." Heavenly providence had wisely instilled this into his mind in order that the doctrine of the Gospel, unhindered at its beginning, might spread in all directions throughout the world. 27

Obviously, then, Tiberius knew about Jesus’ crucifixion. Tiberius was not per se averse to removing Pilate, but he did not remove Pilate over Jesus’ crucifixion. It may be inferred that he did not disapprove. Yet he forbade any persecution of those who followed the religion purportedly based upon the man the Romans crucified. This demonstrates the accuracy of the very broad, big picture fact stated at the outset. So, too, does the account contained in Acts 5:17-42. There, the apostles (minus Judas, of course) taught the same thing in the Temple as Jesus allegedly had taught before he was crucified. According to this account, only the advice of a man named Gamaliel saved them. The bottom line, however, is that they were not killed.

On the flip side, the Zealots also treated Christians differently than they had treated Jesus. The Zealots wanted to restore the kingdom of God just like Jesus. They just were not aligned with regard to how. In fact, one of Jesus’ disciples – Simon - was a Zealot. They could not have been enemies. However, the Zealots were not so comfortable with post-Jesus Christianity. The apostle Paul took the Nazarite vow in an attempt to placate those Jews who were “zealous observers of the law.” 28 Paul later relocated to Rome. It certainly seems to follow that the Zealot attitude toward the other apostles would be the same. It is clear from Paul’s letter to the Romans that there were some Jews in the Christian congregation in Rome. 29 Given that the first Jewish Christians were in fact Christian Jews, and given that pious Jews’ physical presence in the Temple was required three times per year, it is difficult to see why they would be there unless they had to be. One obvious reason for them having to have been in Rome was that the Zealots would have harmed them had they remained in Judea and that they therefore went to Rome for protection. Academia has noted the relative silence of Josephus regarding the Zealots from the time of Jesus to the first Jewish war. A good explanation for the relative silence is that Josephus wanted to avoid the appearance of Rome propagating the existence of Christianity. Thus, the Zealots liked Jesus while he was alive, but disliked Christianity after his death.

At this juncture, then, it is useful to note that three different entities – the Roman government, the Sadducees, and the Zealots all regarded Jesus differently than Christianity after his death. Once again, this demonstrates the accuracy of the very broad, big picture fact stated at the outset.

The Romans continued to permit the Jewish authorities substantial autonomy, at least on the surface, and continued to do so until 66 CE, when the Jews revolted once again. The resulting war lasted until 73 CE. This time the Romans, under the emperor Titus, pillaged Jerusalem and destroyed the Temple. Approximately twenty thousand Jews were deported to Rome and enslaved.

Apocalyptic

Recall again at this point the core concept of the Hebrew world view contained in the Mosaic Covenant. The Hebrew god is reported to have promised to favor the Hebrews in return for their obedience to him. Hebrew history demonstrates that any time things were not going well for them as a nation, a prophet would explain how the Hebrews failed to live up to their end of the covenant as well as how to get back on the proper path. However, at the time of Jesus, the "apocalyptic" world view began to become more prominent. The Hebrews were under the yoke of Roman rule, and had been for about seventy years. The military revolt led by Judas the Galilean had been suppressed by the Romans, and it was exceedingly clear that the Jews lacked the military strength to forcibly overthrow the Roman government. Some among the Hebrews felt that getting back on the path was insufficient, and believed that only the divine dramatic intervention of their god could deliver them from Roman rule.

This belief is evident in the actions of three persons, all reported in the New Testament itself. The first is Theudas, who, in 45 CE, ala Moses on the way out of Egypt, and ala Joshua on the way into Palestine, led approximately 400 Jews to the Jordan River by assuring them that he would part the water and that the people could then easily cross the river.

It came to pass, while Cuspius Fadus was procurator of Judea, that a certain charlatan, whose name was Theudas, persuaded a great part of the people to take their effects with them, and follow him to the Jordan river; for he told them he was a prophet, and that he would, by his own command, divide the river, and afford them an easy passage over it. Many were deluded by his words. However, Fadus did not permit them to make any advantage of his wild attempt, but sent a troop of horsemen out against them. After falling upon them unexpectedly, they slew many of them, and took many of them alive. They also took Theudas alive, cut off his head, and carried it to Jerusalem. 30

The second person whose actions demonstrate the belief that some form of divine dramatic intervention was required to remove the yoke of Roman rule was known as “the Egyptian.” About 53 CE, he made his bid for the title of messiah. Josephus writes:

There came out of Egypt about this time to Jerusalem one that said he was a prophet, and advised the multitude of the common people to go along with him to the Mount of Olives, as it was called, which lay over against the city, and at the distance of five furlongs. He said further, that he would show them from hence how, at his command, the walls of Jerusalem would fall down; and he promised them that he would procure them an entrance into the city through those walls, when they were fallen down. Now when Felix was informed of these things, he ordered his soldiers to take their weapons, and came against them with a great number of horsemen and footmen from Jerusalem, and attacked the Egyptian and the people that were with him. He also slew four hundred of them, and took two hundred alive. But the Egyptian himself escaped out of the fight, but did not appear any more31

The third is person, and obviously not in chronological order, was Jesus. Although Josephus does mention him (and more about that later), the primary source is the New Testament of the Christian Bible. The New Testament contains four books that contain accounts of the life of Jesus - Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. These four books are collectively referred to as "the Gospels." They were written in and for different churches. 32 The various authors, whoever they were, certainly did not think they were writing only one of several versions that would later be harmonized. The first three Gospels are referred to as "the Synoptic Gospels" because they contain many of the same stories told with many of the same words often using the same order of occurrence. The nearly universal consensus - both academic and theological - is that Mark was the first Gospel written. (There are always going to be those guys who say that the earth is 6000 years old, that dinosaurs co-existed with man, and that Matthew was the first Gospel written because it is listed first and Catholic tradition formerly held that it was the first.) The consensus also holds that Matthew and Luke drew upon Mark as one of their sources, along with a source denoted as "Q" for "quelle" (German for "source"), as well as two sources denoted as "M" and "L" to account for material unique to either Matthew or Luke. 33

The authors of Matthew, Luke, and John were substantially less constrained by the existence of witnesses, if at all. As was the case with Mark, there are differing opinions as to when the Gospels of Matthew and Luke were written. According to Roman Catholic commentary, Matthew was probably written at least a decade after Mark, and Luke sometime between 80 and 90 CE. The Gospel of John was not written until at least between 90 and 100 CE, and there are those who say it wasn’t written until about 120 CE. To be in a position to contradict anything in Matthew or Luke, a person would have had to witness the event, to have remembered it accurately, and have been relocated to the region where the respective Synoptic was utilized. Not very likely! Because John was written so late, most, and maybe all, of the witnesses old enough to remember the events described in the Synoptics were dead. Moreover, so to were all those who might remember the earliest years of the first Christian community. Thus, the only constraints under which the authors of Matthew, Luke, and John labored was the existence of Mark.

Specific Examples

The first three gospels contain many indications that Jesus had what will be referred to here as a Malachian mindset. By Malachian mindset is meant that Jesus thought he was the messenger referred to in the Old Testament book of Malachi excerpted above. There are also many indications that Jesus had what will be referred to a Messianic mindset. This designation is potentially confusing. The word “messiah” comes from the Hebrew word meaning “anointed.” In the Hebrew faith, three types of people were anointed: Kings, Prophets, and priests. However, the phrase “Messianic mindset” as used here embraces the concept of “savior.” The coming of a messiah is supposedly prophesied, and much of the purported prophecy is contained in Isaiah. There would seem to be four basic possibilities: 1) Jesus had a Malachian mindset; 2) Jesus had a Messianic mindset; 3) Jesus had a combination of both mindsets; and 4) Jesus had neither a Malachian nor a Messianic mindset. The way to accurately assess his mindset is to consider the availability of witnesses with regard to the events reported in the Gospels. The concept of availability of witnesses arises here in two contexts. First, we consider who witnessed what. Determining whether an event or discussion was public or private is a big first step, but not dispositive, due to the insufficiency in many cases of saying a witness was there when an event did not happen. Second, we ask whether the witnesses were available to confirm or contradict what was written. Both the passage of time and the geographic locale where the writing was used become important here. When this approach is utilized, it is seen that Jesus had a Malachian mindset, and that a Messianic mindset was appended by the authors of the Gospels.

Because of the fact that Mark was written when some of the witnesses to the events of Jesus were still alive and available, the author of Mark was stuck with certain facts. These facts include, but are not limited to, six things that happened right in front of everybody:

1) that Jesus was baptized by John the Baptist;34
2) that people who knew Jesus rejected any claim that Jesus was anything other than ordinary;35
3) that Jesus once said "a prophet is always without honor in his home town" in a context which makes it clear that he was referring to himself;36
4) that Jesus, when confronted with the Essenic notion of messiah, replied "How can somebody be both David's son and David's lord?";37
5) that Jesus said, “Truly I tell you, there are some standing here who will not taste death until they see the kingdom of God arrive with power"; 38
6) the close temporal proximity between Jesus' activity at the Temple and his crucifixion;
7) that Jesus asked "My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?" shortly before he died.39

As will be seen, these facts are all Malachian in nature.

What happens when these and other key events in the gospels are analyzed using the availability of witnesses as a filter? Almost all of the Malachian mindset utterances and events are public, and almost all of the Messianic utterances and events are either private or witnessed by Sadducees who were pro-Roman. Taking the events listed above in order, consider first Jesus’ baptism. This was a public event. People outside of Jesus’ circle would have seen it. Mark’s report attempts to negate any inference about the subservient relationship of Jesus vis-à-vis the Baptist as follows: “One mightier than I is coming after me. I am not worthy to stoop and loosen the thongs of his sandals.”Note, however, that in Mark, the Baptist does not identify Jesus as the mightier someone. Mark’s report continues:

It happened in those days that Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee and was baptized in the Jordan by John. On coming up out of the water he saw the heavens being torn open and the Spirit, like a dove, descending upon him. And a voice came from the heavens, “You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased.” (Emphasis added.)

Note that the account confines what was seen and heard to Jesus himself.

Compare the account in Mark with that of Matthew (remember – fewer if any witnesses with more faded memories). Matthew’s account begins similarly by way of explaining away the fact that the Baptist baptized Jesus:

I need to be baptized by you, and yet you are coming to me? Jesus said to him in reply, “Allow it for now, for thus it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness.”

Matthew then makes small but significant changes from Mark:

After Jesus was baptized, he came up from the water and behold, the heavens were opened, and he saw the spirit of God descending like a dove coming upon him. And a voice came from the heavens, saying, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.”

It is very important to note that in Matthew’s account, the opening of the heavens is not presented as a personal vision of Jesus, and the voice is not portrayed as speaking only to Jesus.

Now consider the account of Jesus’ baptism in John remembering that there no longer existed any witnesses:

The next day, [John] saw Jesus coming toward him and said, “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world. He is the one of whom I said, “A main is coming after me who ranks ahead of me because he existed before me. I did not know him, but the reason I came baptizing with water was that he might be made known to Israel.“ John testified further, saying, “I saw the Spirit come down like a dove from the sky and remain upon him. I did not know him, but the one who sent me to baptize with water told me, ‘On whomever you see the Spirit come down and remain, he is the one who will baptize with the Holy Spirit.’ Now I have seen and testified that he is the Son of God.”

So we’ve gone from a “someone mightier” than John label (like maybe messenger of the covenant) that was not expressly applied to Jesus (and remember this fact when Jesus’ response to the Baptist’s messenger is discussed infra) when there were witnesses all the way to the Son of God when there weren’t. Also, very importantly, we’ve gone from things that were seen and heard only by Jesus to things that were purportedly seen and heard by the Baptist. What a difference the existence of witnesses can make!

Now consider points two and three listed above together. Jesus, after having called his disciples, arrived back in his home town of Nazareth, and went to teach in the synagogue on the Sabbath. He was poorly received. According to Mark 6:2-3:

… and many who heard him were astonished. They said, “Where did this man get all this? What kind of wisdom has been given him? What mighty deeds are wrought by his hands? Is he not the carpenter, the son of Mary, and the brother of James and Joses and Judas and Simon? And they took offense at him.

(Remember the question, “What mighty deeds are wrought by his hands?” for the point after next.) Marks account continues with Jesus’ reaction to his rejection by his hometown:

Jesus said to them, “A prophet is not without honor except in his native place and among his own kin and in his own house.” So he was not able to perform any mighty deed there, apart from curing a few sick people by laying his hands on them. He was amazed at their lack of faith.

Matthew’s account is substantially the same. However, when we get to Luke, things become somewhat more involved. In Luke, Jesus is reported to have read from a scroll containing a passage from Isaiah 61:1. He is reported next to have stated, “Today this scripture passage is fulfilled within your hearing" to have been well-received by those at the synagogue – “And all spoke highly of him and were amazed at the gracious words that came from his mouth.” The people still ask whether this is the son of Joseph, but now it seems more like the people are wondering how this can be rather than asking sarcastically to demonstrate that it cannot be. Luke follows with comparisons of Jesus’ rejection to inactivity by the Old Testament prophets Elijah and Elisha. According to Luke, only then did the Nazarenes become angry and evict Jesus.

From Mark to Luke we have gone from unspecified preaching to preaching from Isaiah, a favorite source of those who adhere to the concept of messianic prophecy. From Mark to Luke we have gone from the people taking offense at Jesus to the people speaking highly of him and being amazed at “the gracious words that came from his mouth.” And from Mark to Luke, we have gone from mere rejection to rejection which is necessary to establish the status of prophet by definition. Not surprisingly, the Gospel of John omits any account of Jesus’ rejection at Nazareth whatsoever. This is easily seen as an attempt to obscure the fact that Jesus regarded himself as a mere prophet, and not as the immaculately conceived savior of the world. Note that there is no inconsistency with someone who regarded himself as the messenger referenced in Malachi calling himself a prophet. Indeed, Malachi, the last prophetic book in the Old Testament, is Hebrew for “my messenger,” as was stated previously.

Now consider another account reported by all of the synoptics. Jesus asked, “[H]ow do the scribes claim that the Messiah is the son of David?” Jesus then quotes David, “The Lord said to my lord, ‘Sit at my right hand until I place your enemies under your feet.’” Jesus then asks, “David himself calls him ‘lord’; so how is he his son?” The accounts of this discourse reported in both Matthew and Luke are the same. What is different, however, is the reaction of the audience. In Mark, the “great crowd heard this with delight.” In Matthew, “[n]o one was able to answer him a word, nor from that day on did anyone dare to ask him any more questions.” In Luke, there is no mention of the reaction of the audience. So why is the audience reaction important? To answer this question, one must understand how Christianity interprets the account. According to Christian dogma, Jesus was not using either simple logic or even sarcasm to make the point that David’s son could not be David’s lord, but was instead asking the audience how to reconcile the seeming contradiction. If this is correct, then we must conclude that the audience in Mark was saying, “Oh, goodie, Jesus is giving us a riddle.” Not likely. Both Matthew 40 and Luke 41 contain genealogies of Jesus. Both genealogies (note that they are inconsistent), by their express terms, purport to trace the lineage of Joseph. Biblical scholars, be they apologetics or critics, are unanimous in concluding that the reason for the inclusion of the genealogies was to demonstrate that Jesus was from the line of David, and thus fulfilled the purported prophecy regarding the lineage of the messiah. This assertion presents a paradox for Christianity at a very basic level. If Jesus was immaculately conceived, then he is not the son of Joseph, and, consequently not of the line of David, and can therefore not be the messiah. If he is the son of Joseph, then Jesus cannot be the Son of God, and the Immaculate Conception must be a myth. This is why Jesus was heard to ask publicly how somebody could be both David’s son yet David’s lord. It is not surprising, then, that John omits any mention of the discourse.

Now consider a passage that should have been fatal to any claim that Jesus was messianic. In Mark 9:1 we read that Jesus said, “Amen, I say to you, there are some standing here who will not taste death until they see the kingdom of God has come in power.” At that time, the phrase “kingdom of God” meant the Jewish theocracy – a nation ruled by God. It is clear that Jesus thought something was imminent, a mindset entirely consistent with a self-perception of being Malachi’s messenger and entirely inconsistent with whatever concept of messiah the reader embraces. In any event, it didn’t happen, even after all of those “standing [there]” had tasted death. It sure sounds like Jesus was wrong. It should come as no surprise, then, that the loss of witnesses resulted in some changes. Mathew’s parallel account states, “Truly I say to you, there are some of those who are standing here who will not taste death until they see the Son of Man coming in His kingdom." Whatever the “Son of Man coming in His Kingdom means, it certainly does not mean “theocracy.” Surprisingly, at least to the writer, Luke’s parallel account resembles that of Mark closely - "But I say to you truthfully, there are some of those standing here who will not taste death until they see the kingdom of God." It does, however, omit any mention of it coming in power.

It is not just the writer who sees a problem here. John 21:20-23 attempts to address it:

Peter, turning around, saw the disciple whom Jesus loved following them; the one who also had leaned back on His bosom at the supper and said, “Lord, who is the one who betrays You?” So Peter seeing him said to Jesus, “Lord, and what about this man?” Jesus said to him, “If I want him to remain until I come, what is that to you? You follow Me!” Therefore this saying went out among the brethren that that disciple would not die; yet Jesus did not say to him that he would not die, but only, “If I want him to remain until I come, what is that to you?” This is the disciple who is testifying to these things and wrote these things, and we know that his testimony is true.

Catholic commentary states:

This whole scene takes on more significance if the disciple is already dead. The death of the apostolic generation caused problems in the church because of a belief that Jesus was to have returned first. Loss of faith sometimes resulted.

Once again it is seen how the presence of witnesses can control an account of the events that they witnessed, and how the absence of witnesses can give rise to taking liberty with the facts. And once again it is seen how the presence of witnesses resulted in an account inconsistent with a messianic mindset yet perfectly consistent with a Malachian mindset.

Next, compare the length of time between Jesus trashing the temple and his subsequent arrest. According to Mark, Matthew, and Luke, that period was short (two days). This timing certainly suggests that the reason Jesus was arrested was because he trashed the temple. The Gospel of John, however, interposes a two year period between Jesus trashing the temple and his arrest. This makes it look like his trashing of the temple had nothing to do with his crucifixion, and negates any inference that Jesus’ mindset was Malachian. What a difference the existence of witnesses can make!

The synoptic accounts of the crucifixion reveal the public versus private strategy of the authors very clearly. As he hung on the cross shortly before his death, Jesus is reported to have cried out in a loud voice, “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?” Both Mark and Matthew agree about this much. It would seem that everybody present could hear this. It reveals Jesus’ state of mind. Obviously things did not go as he had anticipated. This should be an insurmountable problem for Christianity. If indeed Jesus was supposed to be crucified for our sins all along, then he should have said something like “mission accomplished” or even “it is finished.” Mark was certainly stuck with the witnesses. The best its author could do is to say that some said that when Jesus cried out questioningly in a loud voice, he was in fact calling Elijah, which is entirely unconvincing. In mathematical terms, Elijah does not equal God. Small wonder, then, that Luke omits any mention of the “forsaken” question, and replaces it with, “Father, into your hands I commend my spirit.”42 Even smaller wonder, then, that John replaces it with, “It is finished.” (Surprise, surprise.) 43 Note that the synoptics all report that the veil in the temple sanctuary was torn in half upon Jesus death. Only a select few priest had access to the sanctuary. Very private indeed! Note also that both Mark and Matthew mention a Roman centurion who said, “Truly this man was the Son of God.” 44 Very private. However, in Luke the centurion says, “This man was innocent beyond doubt.” Because Jesus’ utterance from the cross was not one of failure, there was no need for the centurion to say he was the son of God. (Must have been a different centurion, huh?) In John’s account, the centurion does not say anything. Again, there was no need.

Now consider what is reported by Matthew to be a private discourse, i.e., only Jesus and his disciples were privy to it. John the Baptist had been jailed by Herod, and had sent some of his disciples to ask Jesus if Jesus was “he who is to come.” Jesus, in so many words, replied in the affirmative. 45 He then said that John was “the Elijah who was to come.”46 Those of you who know your Bible stories will recall that Elijah was a prophet who was so righteous that he did not have to suffer death but instead was taken to heaven on a chariot of fire. 47

If Jesus really said that the Baptist was "Elijah, the one who is to come," it becomes logically imperative to determine what event Elijah's coming was prophesied to precede. The relevant prophecy is found in the book of Malachi, the last book in the Old Testament. In Malachi 3:23 is written: "Lo I will send you Elijah the prophet, before the day of the Lord comes, the great and terrible day...." It is next necessary to determine what is meant by "the day of the Lord, the great and terrible day." The coming of that day is prophesied in Malachi 3:1: "Lo, I am sending my messenger to prepare the way before me; And suddenly there will come to the temple the Lord whom you seek, And the messenger of the covenant whom you desire. (Emphasis added.) Yes, he is coming, says the Lord of hosts." Malachi 3:2 then begins a description of the greatness and terribleness of this prophesied event.

It is important to note that either the phrases "the Lord" and "the messenger of the covenant" are intended to refer to the same entity or Malachi 3:1 envisions the appearance of two entities at the temple - that of "the Lord" and that of "the messenger of the covenant." The former possibility is excluded by the language used at the beginning of the chapter, since the concept of the Lord "sending" himself to prepare the way for himself is untenable. It is thus safe to conclude that Malachi envisioned the appearance of two separate entities in the temple on the great and terrible day of the Lord - both the Lord and his messenger of the covenant. It is important also to note that the messenger of the covenant cannot have been John the Baptist/Elijah because he was dead and therefore not at the temple when Jesus was.

If Jesus claimed that John the Baptist was Elijah returned, then it is clear that Malachi formed the framework for his mindset. According to Malachi, the plight of Judah was due to two transgressions: 1) Judah had profaned the temple which the Lord loves; and 2) Judah has married an idolatrous woman. 48 According to Malachi, the temple had been profaned due to erroneous religious instruction given by and partial decisions made by the temple priests and blemished sacrifices offered by the Jews. 49 Also in Malachi is found disapproval of divorce, notwithstanding the permissibility of divorce under Mosaic law, presumably due to the practice of Jewish men remarrying women who were not Jews. Jesus' stance on divorce bolsters the proposition that Malachi formed the framework for his mindset, and so do his activities in the temple.

Jesus' Malachian mindset provides valuable insight into what he sought to accomplish when he "cleansed" the temple. It indicates that he sought to precipitate the advent of the "great and terrible day" when the Lord will suddenly come to the temple. It also indicates that he perceived himself as the messenger of the covenant and not as the Lord. The fact that Malachi envisioned the presence of both the Lord and the messenger of the covenant in the temple and the absence of any personage other than Jesus in the temple during its "cleansing" eligible to be the messenger of the covenant combine to defeat any claim to the contrary.

A handful of observations are necessary here. One is that if the Baptist really recognized that it was Jesus who should baptize John and not the other way around, then he would not have been required to ask whether Jesus was he who is to come. Secondly, if Jesus thought that the Baptist was Elijah, he would not have been calling for Elijah from the cross, as reported in both Mark and Matthew, since the Baptist had already been beheaded by Herod. Thirdly, the account of what Jesus said in Matthew 11 does not square with the actual events. In Matthew 11, Jesus is reported to have said not only that the Baptist was Elijah, but also reported to have said publicly that the Baptist was the “one about whom it is written: ‘I will send my messenger ahead of you, who will prepare your way before you.’“ As was previously noted, the Baptist cannot have been both the messenger of the covenant referenced in Malachi and Elijah, since he was dead and therefore not in the temple with Jesus when Jesus trashed it. Remember, Malachi envisioned the presence of two entities in the temple – the Lord and the messenger of the covenant. Fourthly, Matthew is the only gospel that reports this discussion. Neither Mark, nor Luke, nor John does so. Finally, note that in the gospel of John, the Baptist is reported to have been expressly asked if he was Elijah, and John is reported to have said no. Now why ever would anyone ask him if he were if Jesus had not said he was? What the author of Matthew did was simply tweak what Jesus had said publicly and made it private. Anyone who said they heard differently would have been thought to have misunderstood.

Summarizing thus far we have a public baptism which militates against a messianic mindset attended by private conversation which evolves toward one, a very public account of Jesus equating himself with a prophet that for some reason disappears by the time the author of John wrote, an obviously skeptical public remark about the Essenic notion of messiah awkwardly taken literally by the synoptics and unsurprisingly omitted by John, an erroneous public prediction that some of the witnesses to Jesus ministry would live to see the day when the kingdom of God came in power, which was completely in accord with a Malachian mindset on the part of Jesus but wholly discordant with any long-term messianic mindset, an ever-increasing lapse of time between Jesus trashing the temple and his arrest, tending to negate the inference that it was the cause of his arrest, and an undeniable expression of failure on the cross that his wholly consistent with a Malachian mindset but completely inconsistent with a messianic mindset.

Now take a look at Jesus’ purported messianic claims. Jesus first purported prediction of “the passion,” 50 his second purported prediction of the passion, 51 and his third purported prediction of the passion 52 were purportedly uttered only to his disciples. Witnesses before the Sanhedrin testified that they heard Jesus say, “I will destroy this temple made with hands and within three days I will build another not made with hands.” This sounds awfully Malachian. It is only when the witnesses finished testifying, and thus were no longer present, that Jesus purportedly uttered statements that were messianic in nature. Surprise, surprise, these were only heard by the chief priests and the Sanhedrin, and nobody from the general population. The same is true with regard to Jesus’ statements before Pilate. Indeed, it must be asked how any account of Pilate’s interrogation could have been given without Roman assistance. Now what might the motive for assisting be?

Now consider one more public messianic account in the gospels. Jesus is reported to have entered the city on a colt which no one had ever ridden before to the accompaniment of much fanfare that was messianic in nature. 53 This, if true, would be in accord with the prophecy contained in Zechariah. 54 Very messianic (also very Essenic to extract the passage from Zechariah and apply it to Jesus) and seemingly very public! There must have been hundreds of witness, and it would seem to follow that this account must be true. Not so fast. Assume you were a first century Palestine lawyer assigned to prove that this account was false. How would you do it? To prove the negative, you would have to have rounded up everybody who was in the city at the right time and right place and asked them if they observed Jesus entering on a colt. Given that Jerusalem had ten gates, merely eliminating one or even nine would have been insufficient. Furthermore, even if you could find ten guys who said that they were at their respective gates at all times on one day, how would you have known that he did not enter on another day. This, of course, would not have been realistic. In reality, you would have to find somebody who saw Jesus enter the city not riding a colt. Jesus was unknown in Jerusalem at the time he entered. Who would even have remarked upon an ordinary entrance? This same difficulty attends the purported discourse about the Baptist being the “one about whom it is written: ‘I will send my messenger ahead of you, who will prepare your way before you.’“ How would one have proven that Jesus did not say it? I was there when he did not say it will not work. The response would be that he obviously said it at a different time and place. The bottom line is that some of the reported New Testament discourses that are seemingly public are not nearly as public as they appear to be.

The source material for the life of Jesus that was written when and where there were witnesses demonstrates that Jesus had a Malachian mindset. The task of the gospel writers was two-fold: 1) to divorce Jesus from Malachi; and 2) to unite Jesus with the Essenic concept of messiah. To accomplish this, they denigrated the importance of the Malachian material heard by the general population, and focused on the messianic material heard by only a select few people - Romans and people controlled by the Romans. With the passage of time and the increase in distance away from Jerusalem, the fewer the witnesses and the easier it was to do. The myth of the Immaculate Conception illustrates this very nicely.

Today there are many who regard the account of the virgin birth of Jesus as inherently unbelievable. However, in the first century, conception resulting from intercourse between god and human was not nearly so remarkable. In Greek mythology, Zeus is credited with siring Hercules, Perseus, Helen of Troy and Minos, inter alia, with mortal women. The Jewish religion also contains a very similar concept: “In those days, when the sons of the gods had intercourse with the daughters of men and got children by them, the Nephilim were on earth.”55

Even though Greeks and Hebrews (and Romans) were well acquainted with the concept of gods siring offspring with mortals, it is clear that Jesus’ contemporaries did not think his conception was immaculate. Three reasons mandate this conclusion. First, there is no account of a virgin birth in the gospel of Mark. In fact, there is no account of his birth whatsoever. This is an interesting omission. Had Jesus truly been immaculately conceived, one would expect that it would be mentioned in any biography of somebody said to be the messiah. The fact that no such account was included certainly suggests that it was a subsequent fabrication.

Second, Paul omits any mention of a virgin birth in his claim of Jesus' divine status in his letter to the Romans. Verse three specifically states that Jesus was "descended from David according to the flesh." Verse four states that Jesus was "established as Son of God in power according to the spirit of holiness through resurrection from the dead." It is seen that Paul does not mention a virgin birth in ascribing to Jesus divine status. The only reasonable interpretation of these verses is that Jesus' birth was biologically normal, and that his divine stature arises from his purported resurrection. Given Jewish theology, Paul's omission of any virgin birth in his explanation of why Jesus is divine is glaring.

Third, Josephus did not mention it. Here is what he wrote about Jesus:

Now there was about this time Jesus, a wise man, if it be lawful to call him a man; for he was a doer of wonderful works, a teacher of such men as receive the truth with pleasure. He drew over to him both many of the Jews and many of the Gentiles. He was [the] Christ. And when Pilate, at the suggestion of the principal men amongst us, had condemned him to the cross, those that loved him at the first did not forsake him; for he appeared to them alive again the third day; as the divine prophets had foretold these and ten thousand other wonderful things concerning him. And the tribe of Christians, so named from him, are not extinct at this day. 56

This paragraph is known as the Testimonium Flavianum. It was long thought to be completely authentic, but many modern scholars say that it has been altered by Christian scribes. Those that say it has been altered base their opinion on the fact that Josephus was a Jew and he would therefore have never called Jesus the messiah. However, it is also clear to many that he was more Roman than Jewish. Thus, if Rome wanted him to write it, he would have. It is significant that his language used in his description of Jesus is completely in line with Paul’s explanation of Jesus’ divinity in Romans 1:1-6.

The source of the virgin birth concept was the belief of the Essenes, as evinced by the passage in the Messianic Banquet scroll referenced above. It was well known amongst the general Jewish population, and most, like Jesus, disparaged it. That’s why the audience reaction reported in Mark. The ancient Hebrew belief in the Nephilim has also been noted. The Qumran community also possessed a scroll of the book of Enoch, which details some of the activity of the Nephilim. It is unlikely that the Qumran community members expected the offspring of god and human to be a mere mortal. It is possible that these guys were hoping not only for the restoration of the kingdom of God, but also for the world dominion enjoyed by the Jews during the times of David and Solomon. The gospel writers - except Mark - simply appropriated the Essenic belief that the Davidic messiah was going to be "begat" by the Hebrew god. The prophecies of the Old Testament were extracted from their historical context and given then-current application to support the concept. For example:

Therefore the Lord himself will give you this sign: the virgin shall be with child, and bear a son, and shall name him Immanuel.57

Catholic commentary to the verse notes that the Hebrew word almah can mean either "virgin" or "young woman," and further that many saw the fulfillment of this prophecy by the birth of the future King Hezekiah. Nonetheless, Christianity extracted the passage from its historical context and applied it to support the claim of virgin birth. This principle of interpretation is precisely the same as that developed by the Essenes. The fact that the Qumran community expected both a military messiah and a priestly messiah was noted earlier. The New Testament writers simply combined the two roles and gave them both to Jesus. After all, if the Essene doctrine was good enough to fool some educated Jews, something close to it should be good enough to fool those who were both less familiar with Judaism and already familiar with the concept of offspring from the union of god and human.

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FOOTNOTES


1. Flavius Josephus, Antiquities of the Jews, Book 2, Chapters 3-5).
2. E. P. Sanders, The Historical Figure of Jesus, Penguin Books, 1995, p. 10.
3. Acts 17:23
4. Council of Jamnia stuff
5. Genesis 11:31; W. F. Albright, The Biblical Period frm Abraham to Ezra, Harper Touchbooks, 1963, p. 2.
6. Genesis 12:1-3.
7. Exodus 1:8.
8. Albright, p. 11.
9. Exodus 19:5-6.
10. See Joshua 12.
11. Deuteronomy 18:18-19.
12. See Isaiah 44:28 – 45:5.
13. Malachi 1:7-14.
14. Malachi 2:17.
15. Malachi 2:10-16.
16. Acts 5:17.
17. Josephus, Antiquities of the Jews, Book 18, Chapter 1, Paragraph 4, Mark 12:18, Acts 23:8.
18. Antiquities, Book 18, Chapter 1, Paragraph 4; Acts 23:8.
19. Antiquities, Book 18, Chapter 1, Paragraph 6.
20. Antiquities, Book 18, Chapter 1, Paragraph 5.
21. Reza Azlan, Zealot: The Life and Times of Jesus of Nazareth, Random House, New York, 2013, p. 21.
22. John Allegro, The Dead Sea Scrolls, Penguiin Books, 1956, p. 94.
23. Allegro, 152; Florentino, Garcia, Martinez, The Dead Sea Scrolls Translated: The Qumran Texts in English, Translated by Wilfred G. E. Watson, E. J. Brill, 1994, p. 127.
24. Sanders, p. 24 – the only exception is irrelevant here.
25. Josephus, antiquities, Book 18, Chapter 4, paragraphs 1-2: But the nation of the Samaritans did not escape without tumults. The man who excited them to it was one who thought lying a thing of little consequence, and who contrived every thing so that the multitude might be pleased; so he bid them to get together upon Mount Gerizzim, which is by them looked upon as the most holy of all mountains, and assured them, that when they were come thither, he would show them those sacred vessels which were laid under that place, because Moses put them there So they came thither armed, and thought the discourse of the man probable; and as they abode at a certain village, which was called Tirathaba, they got the rest together to them, and desired to go up the mountain in a great multitude together; but Pilate prevented their going up, by seizing upon file roads with a great band of horsemen and foot-men, who fell upon those that were gotten together in the village; and when it came to an action, some of them they slew, and others of them they put to flight, and took a great many alive, the principal of which, and also the most potent of those that fled away, Pilate ordered to be slain. 2. But when this tumult was appeased, the Samaritan senate sent an embassy to Vitellius, a man that had been consul, and who was now president of Syria, and accused Pilate of the murder of those that were killed; for that they did not go to Tirathaba in order to revolt from the Romans, but to escape the violence of Pilate. So Vitellius sent Marcellus, a friend of his, to take care of the affairs of Judea, and ordered Pilate to go to Rome, to answer before the emperor to the accusations of the Jews. So Pilate, when he had tarried ten years in Judea, made haste to Rome, and this in obedience to the orders of Vitellius, which he durst not contradict; but before he could get to Rome Tiberius was dead. )
26. Id.
27. Eusebius, Church History, Book 2, Chapter 2
28. Acts 21: 20-26 – this was over circumcision.
29. See Romans 2:17-28.
30. Antiquities, Book 20.Chapter 5, Paragraph 1; see also Acts 5:36, but note that Acts places Theudas’ death at least fifteen years before Josephus.
31. Antiquities, Book 20, Chapter 8, Paragrah 6.
32. Burnett Hillman Streeter, The Four Gospels: A Study of Origins, Treating of the Manuscript Tradition, sources, Authorship, and Dates, WIPF and Stock Publishers, 2008, p. 12 – previously published by Macmillan and Co., 1924.
33. Streeter.
34. Mark 1:1-11; Matthew 3:13-17, Luke 3:21-22, John 1:20-34.
35. Mark 6:1-3; Matt. 54-58; Luke 4:29.
36. Mark 6:4; Matt. 13:57; Luke 4:25.
37. Mark 12:35-37; Matt. 22:41-45; Luke 20:41-44.
38. Mark 9:1, Matt. 16:28, Luke 9:27 cf. John 21:21-23 and Catholic commentary thereto.
39. Mark 15:34; Matt. 27:46.
40. Matt. 1:1-16.
41. Luke 3:23-38.
42. Luke 23: 46.
43. John 19:30.
44. Matthew 27:54, Mark 15:39.
45. More precisely, he says “Jesus replied, “Go back and report to John what you hear and see: The blind receive sight, the lame walk, those who have leprosy are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the good news is proclaimed to the poor.”
46. Matthew 11:14.
47. 2 Kings 2:11.
48. See Malachi 2:11.
49. See Malachi 2:8-9, 1:7.
50. Mark 8:31-33.
51. Mark 9:30-32.
52. Mark 10:32-34.
53. Mark 11:1-10; cf. Matthew 21:9.
54. Zechariah 9:9 - Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion! Shout in triumph, O daughter of Jerusalem! Behold, your king is coming to you; He is just and endowed with salvation, Humble, and mounted on a donkey, Even on a colt, the foal of a donkey.
55. Gen 6:4 from the New English Bible.
56. Antiquities, Book 18, Chapter 3, Paragraph 3.
57. Isaiah 7:14.