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CM#2-4: Gospel Parallels with Josephus

Chapters 2-4 deal with parallels between the ministry of Jesus in the Gospels and the campaign of Titus as told by Josephus. I accept the comparisons as valid and just have a number of miscellaneous comments.

On page 67, Atwill states, "parts of the New Testament and War of the Jews were designed to be read interactively, or intertextually."

In my on-line book, it was shown that Old Testament history is unlocked when certain books are read intertextually with others. More specifically, the names and events of the Torah were specifically tailored to contrast those of the Kings/Chronicles history, but a benefit could only be gained by those who had knowledge of the underlying technique.

> Chapter 2

Josephus links Gennesareth, the major lake ("sea") of Galilee, with one next to Alexandria in Egypt by noting that both were stocked with a particular type of fish, the Coracin. Alexandrian Jews later suffered a similar fate (of "fish harvesting") when they were slaughtered by the tens of thousands at the order of Tiberius Alexander.

In one of the books I have (I can't seem to locate the exact reference) I read that the Herodian family placed a fish or similar nautical symbol on their royal ships. The Jews within their political jurisdictions seem to be likewise identified as their property and to be managed as they saw fit, even marked as "little fishes".

As an aside - something I never noticed before - Gennesareth seems to embed the name Nazareth.

> Chapter 3

That the Christian communion rite is a sanitized version of extremely ancient traditions of king sacrifice and cannibalism is not new. However, Atwill brings out an even more disturbing element of Roman mockery of Christians. Hardcore Scicarii either kill themselves or sacrifice themselves in fighting. They will not convert and will not compromise. It was the will of Rome that all such Jews of that persuasion die, that is, to either "believe or be damned" to use the Gospel formula.

Christians on the other hand are likened to a woman who is willing to literally eat the flesh of her own son in order to save herself, and not to live thereafter as a free person but as a slave within Roman society. It is deemed fitting for Christians to be reminded of (and denigrated for) their weakness in perpetuity. The Gospels might then be aptly described as a tutorial in "slave management". This involved the age-old tactic of making slaves feel guilty and ashamed of their base origins, and therefore inherently inferior to their masters.

The woman used as a metaphor in Josephus is named Mary daughter of Eleazar. (Another Eleazar was "pruned" by Titus and then apparently after he succombed to death also became a macabre Passover meal, one eaten in haste and in great danger.) In the Gospels one Mary is the sister of Lazarus ("Eleazar"). Another Mary is the mother Jesus and also probably mother of Lazarus as well, Lazarus having been identified as an epithet of Simon the half brother of Jesus. This Mary was likely deceased well before 70 A.D.

Atwill considers the name Mary to be a pejorative epithet, indicating "rebellious". (There is additional discussion of this in Chapter 4, p 88.) It is true that the name Miriam (sister of Moses) means, "bitter" and perhaps connotes "rebellious". However, the name Mary is actually derived from the Egyptian Merit, "beloved". It was a very typical name/epithet of royal women and queens during the pharaonic era.

Mariamne was also the name given to Herod the Great's leading wife. She was in fact characterized as a bitter woman, but the name reflects her royalty more so than obstinate personality. Mary, we discovered, was a coveted Hebrew nickname for Herodian women. The presence of so many Mary's in the Gospels is not primarily (if at all) due to obfuscation or a desire to libel Jewish women as rebels. It instead reflects Herodian royal culture and the great significance of Herodians in the unfolding Christian drama.

> Chapter 4

On page 74-75, Atwill applies descriptions of John the Baptist to John the Apostle, which doesn't seem to be necessary or appropriate.

I became confused over the symbolism of those swine that were drowned versus those who did not die. See may comments in a previous post.

The commentary on Simon Peter's death is especially haunting. Peter is sacrificed for the benefit of Rome in what we might call today as a "hostile takeover" of nascent Christianity by a "corporate pirate". The original Christian leadership, represented by Simon Peter, is literally decapitated so that Flavian control can be grafted onto his dead body. And according to the Gospels it had been "prophesied" years earlier what manner of death Simon Peter would endure that he might "glorify God" (as represented by Caesar). How sick and how sickening! Simon is made a foundation stone for a Roman church that he had no intention of building, led where he had no desire to go!

Atwill notes the confusion in the Gospels as to whether there was one demon-possessed man of Gadara or two. This seems to be related to similar confusion in Josephus about the rebel leaders John and Simon. The first John, the rival of Josephus in Galilee, was killed during the seige and replaced by another John, who Atwill associates with the Apostle John. It also isn't quite clear to me when the leader Simon first became active. Probably he did have a substantial role before the siege, but he is introduced rather late by Josephus and as though he appeared suddenly upon the fortuitous death of Nero.

On page 91, Atwill equates Simon bar Gioras with Simon bar Jonas (Simon Peter). This is reasonable, but the further association of the name Jonas to John is probably faulty. Despite the phonic similarity they are otherwise unrelated names. It also does not seem helpful or necessary to try and make the rebel leader (Apostle) Simon Peter into the son of the rebel leader (Apostle) John son of Zebedee.

At the beginning of the final book chapter (#16), Atwill discusses the Gospel story of the "Woman at the Well" and lists other parallels between the Gospels and Josephus. This adds another nice touch of symmetry to his book to go along with the references to Esther in the Introduction and at the end of Chapter 16.

I would add to the list of parallels the parable of "The Good Samaritan". In the Gospels, it is a Samaritan who stops to save the life of an injured man traveling the road from Jericho to Jerusalem. In Josephus (Wars of the Jews, Book II, Chap. XII), the Samaritans are blamed for murdering a pilgrim on his way to Jerusalem. This creates a major incident and ultimately costs the Roman governor Fadus his job for mishandling it.