Review of Joe Atwill’s book “Caesar’s Messiah”:
Vespatian as “Moses”
Titus as “Joshua”
The “Flavian Hypothesis” Expanded:
Josephus the Herodian:
Josephus the Roman:
A Lost Post from Caesar’s Messiah Forum (identifying Titus Caesar as a neo-Elisha/Joshua figure):
I'm back home for the Holidays and now have the beloved (and beleaguered) family Whiston translation of Josephus at my disposal.
In the discussion with Hector Avalos it was claimed that the Cannibal Mary episode in Josephus is a deliberate parallel with 2 Kings 6-7.
Here is a more comprehensive comparison of the twin passages:
1) In 2 Kings 6:24-31, Elisha is playing a practical joke on Ahab during a prolonged siege. Because this passage has a very strong comedic element, we should expect that the matching passage in Josephus is also at least partly "tongue-in-cheek".
2) In 2 Kings 6, two women eat one baby. In Josephus, one woman eats half a baby. Such a variation on the earlier theme does not destroy the parallel. An exact repetition is not as believable. A variation however invites the credulous to wonder at the hand of God.
3) During the siege of 2 Kings 6-7, Elisha, who is a type of Joshua/Jesus, is a central figure. During the siege of Jerusalem, the parallel role of Elisha (as a neo-Joshua/Jesus figure) is played by Titus. This identification of Titus with Jesus further associates with the Gospel prediction by Jesus that Jerusalem would be destroyed. A “legitimate” Jesus from the time of Pontius Pilate is said to have foreseen this event. However, it is a new Jesus that must come in power and glory to fulfill it. That Jesus is of course Titus. As Joe Atwill has plainly stated, Titus is the only possible candidate. Also note that an Elijah figure (John the Baptist) had to precede Jesus as the new Elisha. The pair Elijah and Elisha corresponds to the earlier Eliezer and Gershom (sons of Moses) of the Torah as well as the pair Joktan and Reu in Genesis. (In mythological terms, an Osiris always “prepared the way” for a Horus.)
4) The role of Ahab (the son of Omri/Joseph, who was obsessed with the region of Aram/Ramoth-Gilead) is played by Josephus (the new “Joseph of Arimathea”).
5) Josephus states, “Titus did not omit to have the Jews exhorted to repentance”. And it is Josephus who is directed to shout out to those on the wall of Jerusalem as was done in the days of Hezekiah when Sennacherib came and placed Jerusalem under siege. It is a speech with comical mismatching of Old Testament stories. For example, Sarah is said to have been taken by Pharaoh Neco and later returned to Abraham unmolested.
6) In 2 Kings 6, the joke played on Ahab immediately precedes the lifting of the siege. In the Josephus account, the tale of Mary is deliberately placed at the very end, and almost as a post scrďpt to the siege narrative. The temple is even said to have already been set fire when the Mary episode takes place. The sacrifice of the child relates (shockingly or mockingly) not only to the Jewish Passover, but to the lamb roasted and eaten hurriedly in remembrance of the Exodus.
7) Because the Cannibal Mary of Josephus is an important lady, it indicates that the two women in 2 Kings 6 were also ladies of the court that Elisha coaxed into helping with his little prank. Ahab probably would not have "tore himself up" over the baby of a commoner anyway. It would have required the death of a royal baby to genuinely evoke emotion (as in the story of Mesha king of Moab sacrificing his son upon the city wall, who was to reign after him). In regard to Mary, Josephus uses the phrase, “the famine pierced through her (Mary’s) very bowels”. This language would have referred not only to Mary’s own body but also to her princely offspring. See the thread on Philemon and the discussion there on the connotations of this same word, “bowels”.
8) In 2 Kings 6, upon hearing the tale, Ahab is first aggrieved and then angry. He threatens (perhaps facetiously) to cut off the head of the young prophet Elisha. He sends a “messenger” to Elisha, but evidently not to follow through on the threat. Nevertheless, Elisha shuts himself up in his house just in case. In the Josephus account, it is Josephus that is the most troubled by the story of Cannibal Mary. There is no explicit threat made to Titus (as the “Elisha”), however Titus is said to “excuse himself before God” after being informed, and by association as a symbolic gesture of taking precaution.
9) In 2 Kings 6, Elisha proclaims the “word of the Lord” that the famine caused by the siege is about to end. In the Josephus parallel, after being told about Cannibal Mary, Titus (as Elisha) determines to put an end to the siege. Titus and Josephus are outside the city rather than inside as Elisha and Ahab, however the “Lord” is still in control of events. It is in fact the “Lord-God” Vespatian that decrees the timing of the siege and its completion, which is said to be the anniversary of Nebuchadrezzar’s destruction of Jerusalem. Josephus makes repeated mention that Titus was positioned at a place called “the Camp of the Assyrians”. This is an allusion not only to the combined Assyrian/Babylonian army that besieged Jerusalem in former times, but also to the Camp of the Aramaeans/Syrians in the 2 Kings 6-7 passage.
10) In the 2 Kings passage, there are four lepers that decide to surrender to the enemy in order to possibly save themselves. The lepers slip out of the city and find the Syrian camp deserted. They help themselves to food and drink, as well as gold and silver, before bringing news back to the city. In Josephus, four priestly names (Joseph, Jesus, Ishmael, and Matthias) are provided as examples of those eminent families who deserted to the Romans in order to save themselves and their wealth. According to Josephus, these, “watching for a proper opportunity when they might quietly get away, fled to the Romans." They are the only named persons/families that expressly came through the siege financially unscathed.
11) Although unnamed, other resourceful Jews were said to have swallowed gold before going over to the Romans. This tactic was at first effective, but the soldiers began to kill everyone coming out of the city in hopes of confiscating gold.
12) The start of the siege coincided with the Jewish Passover. It seems the crowds had become accustomed to witnessing the human sacrifice of prisoners during this event, and even high-ranking persons as in the days of Pontius Pilate. However, this Passover would witness more than the sacrifice of a single prince (“Mary’s lamb”), but that of an entire nation. In 2 Kings 6-7, the people rushed out of the city gates as the siege came to an end. In the Josephus account, there was said to have been a veritable Exodus of dead bodies thrown over the city walls. As in the 2 Kings 6-7 story, Josephus emphasizes the market price of staple goods in order to accentuate the severity of the famine.
In conclusion, Josephus is implicitly having Caesar behave in such a way "that all things might be fulfilled". In other words, we have a Flavian satisfying Old Testament precedent. The result is that Titus, like Elisha in 2 Kings 6, is "glorified" as a neo-Joshua. (In 2 Kings 6, Elisha capitalizes on the approaching end to the siege by issuing a prediction/prophesy, and as an attempt to solidify his status among the people.)
Josephus also invites the initiated reader to discern the identity of the Elisha/neo-Joshua in his cannibal Mary passage. Josephus has already declared Vespatian to be the Messiah. However, Vespatian was a bit old to fit the billing. A Messiah (neo-Jesus/Joshua) was supposed to be young or at least "youthful". Titus is therefore also being established as the next incarnation of Jesus/Christ/The Messiah.
Josephus deliberately inverted many details for maximal shock effect. For example, his "lepers" were depicted as another type of greedy opportunist, that is, High Priests. Although accustomed to receiving honor among the people, Josephus uses his literary "sleight of hand" to place them among the incurably diseased.
Oh what fun it was for Josephus to sing that Titus was Lord and Jerusalem's holiest of men lepers! Despite what must have been unthinkable misery, Titus and his ilk can still find humor, sick and twisted as it may have been. And they would have considered it their traditional duty to do so.
Finally, it should be noted that the accounts of Josephus were not literal history. Josephus flatters himself almost as much as his new patron Titus. By his wisdom and divine protection he survives two close calls on his life. He even goes so far to say that his mother was informed of his presumed death after the second near-death experience, but "Josephus quickly recovered". The figure of Ahab in the Old Testament was also renowned for his “nine lives”. (The father of Josephus is said to have been imprisoned at the beginning of the war, and he seems to have died at that time.)
Josephus portrays events as he wishes them to be perceived and not necessarily as they actually were. Such episodes as the valiant soldier named Longinus rising up and piercing a victim in the side (ala the Longinus that speared the side of Christ in the Gospels), or a man called lame (Chagiras) suddenly taking up a torch and running, are “signs and wonders” intended to convince the naďve of the divinely inspired mission of Titus and Josephus rather than representing actual events. The story of Cannibal Mary also falls into this category.
I leave you with the following benediction:
Blessed Be the Cheese-Mongers ... for their bowels shall be refreshed (by mighty winds from the Lord no doubt).
On Donner, On Prancer!
Vespatian and Josephus would have been no strangers. In fact, Josephus could not have been adopted as a Flavian if he wasn't already closely related by blood to the Flavians. There wasn't any difference between Flavians, Pisos, Julio-Claudians, Herodians, etc. They were all closely inter-related, that is, part of one extended royal family. Disregard the business of names and just concentrate on the results. Only then do we perceive how the ancient world operated. Commoners or even equestrians did not rise to become Caesars. Royalty begat royalty. It was a one-way street.
When you view the events described in Josephus as one big "family affair" it does begin to make more sense, if not total sense.
I guess we should call the royal family ardent students of history, if not proper historians. Contrived fulfillment of prophesy and role playing were aspects of royal life that must have been viewed as essential, and as an extension of the overall cult apparatus. The royal family was perpetuated through their adherence to tradition, even if they no longer believed in the sanctity of playing divine roles. In the ancient world, "innovation" was generally considered something evil, because it implied rebellion against royal authority.
The system of typecasting provided the structure, the rules of the game, so to speak, that each member of the royal family had to work with. It was not possible to lie and cheat that system too much. There was only so much that other members of the family would tolerate. You could fool the common people all of the time, but other royal people only some of the time.
© Charles N. Pope, US Library of Congress. All rights reserved.