Did anybody see the "Colbert Report" the other night on Comedy Central when it was explained how to discriminate between multiple Jesuses ("Jesi")? Well we have our own criteria!
Titus was about the same age as Josephus. Titus could then not have been the same Jesus born before the death of Herod the Great, nor even the Jesus ("Judas the Galilean") who appeared suddenly on the scene after the census of Quirinius to lead a revolt. There literally were Messiahs appearing here and there. Many of them are woven into the Gospel narrative. None I believe were invented. Only real-life, flesh-and-blood persons (royal persons) could add substance to the mythological cycle.
What's more, there was a continual process of grafting and pruning going on with respect to Messiah figures. Let's examine the Gospel account of the Passion and see what can be discerned. First one Jesus is arrested at Gethsemene while another Jesus barely escapes into the night (ala Patriarch Joseph who escapes Potiphar's wife by abandoning his robe). After a mock trial, the arrested Jesus is brought before Pilate. Another Jesus is then introduced, named Barabbas ("son of the father, son of God"), and is released while the other Jesus is beaten and handed over for crucifixion. But it is not clear whether Barabbas is also the one arrested at Gethsemene or someone only offered as a substitution for that Jesus. On his way to the execution, the Jesus not released by Pilate is however relieved by another Jesus figure (called Simon) who presumbably is put on the cross in his place. At Galgotha he is joined by yet two more Jesus figures. Two die and one is taken down alive and saved.
Joseph Atwill has hit the nail on the head! This style of writing really is a Greek tragic comedy, as well as a murder mystery. Which one is the "real Jesus" in this Passion Play? What sadistic fun for the audience!
The mystery is solved by recognizing that it is the young man who loses his shirt but is otherwise emerges unscathed that is the most important Jesus figure. As Atwill deduces, this is how Titus is later presented as the seige of Jerusalem begins. He is ambushed and must take decisive action to break through the attackers who have hemmed him in.
Josephus also portrays himself as a Messianic figure in the very same way, and even doubly so. First, he must break out of his city besieged by the Romans. He does this only to be encircled by his own men who want to kill him in a cave. Although hopelessly outnumbered and therefore "naked", he manages to escape again by conning his men into a game of lots, probably by drawing straws. Josephus, like some kind of ancient David Blaine, performs his "street magic". All of his men are duped into killing themselves. Only Josephus and his deputy survive. Notice that once again not all the "messianic branches" are lopped off. The leading Jesus is left along with a "twin".
So, who is the Jesus of Nag Hammadi texts and Gnostic Gospels? We must learn to play the royal "shell game" in order to find out!
© Charles N. Pope, US Library of Congress. All rights reserved.