In the narrative of the Book of Acts (circa 61 A.D.), a Roman commander asks Paul, "art not thou that Egyptian, which before these days madest an uproar, and leddest out into the wilderness four thousand men that were murderers?" (Acts 21:38 KJV) Robert Eisenman discusses this "Egyptian" in his book James the Brother of Jesus. He concludes that the unnamed Egyptian was likely Simon Magus, because like the Egyptian Simon Magus he was from a place called Gitta. Joshua-style, the "Egyptian" had crossed over the Jordan with his followers/army. Ala David, he sought to take Jerusalem.
The Roman commander wanted to know if Paul was the same Messiah-figure who stormed the walls of Jerusalem just a couple of years back. That Joshua/David had been repelled and his followers slaughtered, but it appeared as though he had returned to finish the job. This statement in Acts must in some way reflect the total confoundment of rank and file Roman military officers at Jewish Messianic culture.
Well, no, Paul was not THAT Egyptian, but Atwill deduces that he was at that very moment considered a Roman governor in Egypt (under the name Paulinus). He had according to Josephus also recently finished the job of shutting down the Jewish Temple in Heliopolis (founded by Honias/Honi the Circle Drawer after he was exiled from Jerusalem by Antiochus Epiphanes), and taking away its ritual accouterments (lamps, cups, etc.). This was part of a deliberate program of crushing the Scicarii movement in Egypt, which was directed by Nero Caesar first through Lupus governor of Alexandria, and when he died through Paulinus.
Paul/Paulinus perhaps had these very items in his possession when he arrived in Jerusalem. He was also it seems prepared to donate them to the Temple there (effectively annulling the temple of Jehovah in Egypt). His presence in Jerusalem had the opposite effect. He was violently ejection from the Temple compound and the Temple gates were abruptly closed behind him. The priests in Jerusalem wanted nothing to do with items from Egypt (of all places) or with presumed Gentiles traveling with Paul and "converted" by Paul. Paul knew the riot this would provoke, as would equally distasteful donations he had with him from "collections" taken in Asia.
The Roman commander thinks that Paul intended to take the city and temple by force. That was probably not the immediate goal. However, ultimately, the sacred temple articles in Jerusalem would be carted off to Rome by force even as Paul/Paulinus had accomplished at the Jewish temple in Egypt.
The possibility that Paul was given authority in Egypt by Rome leads us to reconsider the identity of another Roman governor mentioned in the New Testament, Sergius Paullus of Capros. This Paullus is made out to be a patron of Apostle Paul. "And when they had gone through the isle unto Paphos, they found a certain sorcerer, a false prophet, a Jew, whose name was Bar-jesus: Which was with the deputy of the country, Sergius Paulus, a prudent man; who called for Barnabas and Saul, and desired to hear the word of God." Acts 13:6-7
Was Luke signaling something to the informed reader and disguising it to others. That is, were Paullus and Paul actually the same person? If so then, Paul lived until at least 70 A.D. at which time he was rewarded with the title of proconsul in Rome. The link between Paul and Paulinus of Egypt made by Atwill also suggests that Paul may have been called Pope Linus (successor of Peter) in the list of bishops of Rome made by Irenaeus.
After the destruction of Jerusalem, the war on Jewish terrorism moves further afield to Cyrene of Libya. Here, a so-called Scicarii leader named Jonathan accuses his long-time enemy Alexander, Bernice, and then Josephus as authoring the Scicarii movement led by Jonathan in Libya! The Roman governor of Libya, Catullus, is said by Josephus to have believed that confession and sentenced the three he implicated to death. However, upon appeal to Vespatian the charges were overturned and Jonathan is executed instead by burning.
Catullus is not punished by Caesar but judgment of God comes upon him just the same. He becomes mentally and physically tormented, takes a fall, and his diseased bowels spill out. This of course is a rather stock fate for one (like Judas Iscariot) who betrays a "true Messiah" (like the earlier Jesus and now Josephus). Similarly, the inducement of false accusation is a stock ploy to destroy a powerful rival, elevate the status of the accused, and immunize them from any further attacks. Josephus, Alexander, and Bernice, are the ones who are exalted in this case. In the Book of Esther, it was Esther and Mordecai who along with Xerxes pull a sting operation on Haman. In the story of Paul and Barnabus, the "false prophet" Bar-jesus is used to stage another variation of the same scam.
Atwill makes special note of Josephus' claim that the Jewish Temple in Egypt was destroyed in fulfillment of the Book of Isaiah, and at a time when a highway had been made between Egypt and Assyria. How could one not perceive the miraculous Roman road system as somehow prophetic! The "prophesies" of Isaiah had already been "fulfilled" when Nebuchadnezzar despoiled the land of Egypt. Since the Old Testament anticipates but does not actually record that event, Josephus takes liberty in adapting it for use in his own times.
Atwill notes the apparent confusion in the identities of the three accused by Jonathan. Bernice (sister of Agrippa II) is there named as the wife rather than brother-in-law of (Tiberius) Alexander. This is of no consequence to Josephus. So, what is the truth that Josephus is burning to tell? Apparently it is to fear Caesar and keep his commandments?
Atwill ends Chapter 8 by concluding that the Gospels were written by the Flavians, Herods, and Alexanders. This proposal needs to be developed in far greater detail and surely will. Until then, I would say we should expect certain Herodians and certain Alexanders orchestrated at least the final Gospel production - in particular those Herodians and Alexanders who sold out completely to the Flavian Caesars and to the detriment of other family members who did not.
© Charles N. Pope, US Library of Congress. All rights reserved.