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Analysis not in Caesar's Messiah

Charles:

I wondered if you and users of your site would be interested in some analysis not in Caesar's Messiah. This will be in my book which is a line by line explanation of the Gospels.

I was not able to publish the following analysis in Caesar’s Messiah but will be bringing it out in my forthcoming ‘line by line’ explanation of the Gospels. As it impacts the current discussion on the Gospels’ provenance and because I am hoping for feedback before the book is published I have submitted it here for criticism.

One aspect of the thesis in CM that is different from what has become a normative approach in Gospel scholarship is the fact that it produces a coherent reading of the text. This cannot be claimed by, for example, one scholar who sees the following provenance for the Gospels.

10's. Galilean Judas cult
20's. Samaritan -Simon Magus cult
30's. Galilean John the Nazorean Prophet cult
40's. Judean John the Christ cult
40's. Mary's Simon Caiaphas cult advertised in a play. Thomas' Gospel.
50's. James-Simon Church of God cult. Hermas' "Shepherd"
60's. John of Geschala and other pro-War Messianic cults
60's. John's revision of Mary's play into a narrative gospel.
70's. Paulist-Barnabus Jesus Mystery cults
80's-90's. Carpocratean and other Mystery Cults
110's. Mark Gospel revises Mary and John's gospel.
120's.Gnostic and Heretical cults
150's Church in Rome starts. All groups rush to Rome to do ideological
battle. By now Mark's gospel is quite obsolete.
150's.Marcion's break from Judaism through Paul
180's. Matthew's Gospel using material from Mark and John the Prophet
texts to combat Marcion.
180's Marcion's Gospel in response to Matthew.
200's. Tertullian's revision of Marcion's gospel to create Luke's

Many scholars would agree with all or part of the above claims and some would add even other influences that have found their way into the Gospels. What needs to be understood from the perspective of coherency, however, is that if the Gospels were in fact a ‘theological chain letter’ then the extant texts are gibberish. In other words if the Gospels actually reflect so many “ideological battles’ then there can be no way to determine if any particular passage was originally part of a chain of thought relative to the passages around it. If you accept the massive redaction of the Gospels by various “groups” seen by many scholars you give up the possibility of being able to understand the authors’ original meaning. Moreover, the conclusion reached by such complex linkage is unlikely to be correct almost by definition. This is because even if one assigns a 50% possibility, for example, to the above conjecture that “John revised Mary’s play” and it therefore crosses the threshold of plausibly, such a lengthy chain of 50% probabilities as given above has no real chance of being correct – the very reason parsimony is valued - and is not plausible. Though one or two elements in such a chain may be correct, the conclusion it produces virtually never is.

Therefore a thesis that can explain the Gospels from a single point of authorship has an intrinsic advantage over those that posit multiple authors. This is important to the thesis in CM in that it s able to render a completely coherent understanding of the Gospels from a single point of authorship – the intellectual circle that surrounded the Flavian Caesar’s. Viewed from this perspective, I maintain that virtually every passage is understandable. I am not suggesting that the Gospels were never redacted, in fact I believe that they were, but as the following analysis shows, if the extant text has been redacted it was done only by individuals who understood the perspective and technique of the originals authors.

To demonstrate this I submit the following analysis of Matthew 16-18. In the analysis I explain every word in these passages. I not only submit that my interpretation is coherent, but that the ‘anomalies’ that scholars have seen in these passages and led them to see the Gospels as a ‘theological chain letter’ disappear when viewed from the perspective I offer. Far from being gibberish reflecting numerous redactions, the text is perhaps the most precise literature ever written.

The analysis begins at Matthew 16: 14. First note that the passage occurs at Caesarea Philippi. This is important because as shown in the ‘fishers of men at the Sea of Galilee” chapter in CM, for example, the locations where events occur in the Gospels has a meaning not heretofore understood; that they are part of the typological ‘foreseeing’ of Titus’s campaign.

The first part of the passage asks: who is ‘Jesus Christ’? When reading passages in the Gospels that raise this question one needs to bear in mind that the Jewish war was in part a religious struggle over this very issue. Josephus and the Flavians saw this designation as belonging to Caesar, while the Jewish rebels believed in their prophecies that claimed a world ruler would emerge from Judea. As shown below, the passage is ‘foreseeing’ how Vespasian will ‘reveal’ to the Jewish rebels that he was god the father and Titus was the son of god.

When Jesus went into the region of Caesarea Philippi he asked his disciples, "Who do people say that the Son of Man is?"

They replied, "Some say John the Baptist, others Elijah, still others Jeremiah or one of the prophets."
He said to them, "But who do you say that I am?"
Simon Peter said in reply, "You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God."
Jesus said to him in reply, "Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah. For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my heavenly Father.

In the next line Jesus gives his prophecy to Simon concerning him being a “rock’ that he will build the church upon.

And so I say to you, you are Peter, and upon this stone I will build my church, and the gates of the netherworld shall not prevail against it.

As I show in CM, this prophecy can be seen as having ‘comes to pass’ in the following passage from Josephus. In it Simon is in a cave with ‘stonecutters’ – who of course, create ‘stones’. As he pops out of the ground where the Temple had formerly been he becomes the first ‘stone’ upon which the new church is to be built. In the passage, notice that Simon has bound himself, so to speak. In other words, that he gave himself over to the Romans voluntarily.

But as for Titus, he marched from that Cesarea which lay by the sea-side, and came to that which is named Cesarea Philippi, and staid there a considerable time, and exhibited all sorts of shows there. And here a great number of the captives were destroyed, some being thrown to wild beasts, and others in multitudes forced to kill one another, as if they were their enemies. And here it was that Titus was informed of the seizure of Simon the son of Gioras, which was made after the manner following:

This Simon, during the siege of Jerusalem, was in the upper city; but when the Roman army was gotten within the walls, and were laying the city waste, he then took the most faithful of his friends with him, and among them some that were stone-cutters, with those iron tools which belonged to their occupation, and as great a quantity of provisions as would suffice them for a long time, and let himself and all them down into a certain subterraneous cavern that was not visible above ground. Now, so far as had been digged of old, they went onward along it without disturbance; but where they met with solid earth, they dug a mine under ground, and this in hopes that they should be able to proceed so far as to rise from under ground in a safe place, and by that means escape. But when they came to make the experiment, they were disappointed of their hope; for the miners could make but small progress, and that with difficulty also; insomuch that their provisions, though they distributed them by measure, began to fail them. And now Simon, thinking he might be able to astonish and elude the Romans, put on a white frock, and buttoned upon him a purple cloak, and appeared out of the ground in the place where the temple had formerly been. At the first, indeed, those that saw him were greatly astonished, and stood still where they were; but afterward they came nearer to him, and asked him who he was. Now Simon would not tell them, but bid them call for their captain; and when they ran to call him, Terentius Rufus who was left to command the army there, came to Simon, and learned of him the whole truth, and kept him in bonds, and let Caesar know that he was taken. Thus did God bring this man to be punished for what bitter and savage tyranny he had exercised against his countrymen by those who were his worst enemies; and this while he was not subdued by violence, but voluntarily delivered himself up to them to be punished, and that on the very same account that he had laid false accusations against many Jews, as if they were falling away to the Romans, and had barbarously slain them for wicked actions do not escape the Divine anger,

Continuing with the text in Matthew, Jesus next gives a second ‘prophecy’ concerning Simon, indicating that he has the power to ‘bind’ or ‘loosen’.

I will give you the keys to the kingdom of heaven. Whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven; and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven."

The meaning of this ‘key’ or ‘power’ Jesus is giving Apostle Simon is provided in the above passage from Josephus regarding the rebel Simon, which, like the Gospel story, also transitions from a ‘stone’ to a ‘binding’. As shown below, Jesus’s prophecy ‘foresees’ that Simon has the power to either convert to the belief that the “government of Vespasian” was the focus of Judaism’s messianic prophecies and be ‘loosed’, or to refuse to be give up his belief in the Jewish Messiah and therefore be bound and taken to the “Kingdom of Heaven” - Rome. This is, of course, exactly what happen to a ‘Simon’ both at the conclusion of the Gospels – (John 21) - and the conclusion of the war. (War 7, 154)

To digress, whenever Jesus uses the expressions “kingdom of heaven or “kingdom of my father” or the “kingdom to come’ he is always indicating the “kingdom” of Rome. This was the only ‘kingdom” that came to Judea within the time span Jesus gave for his prophecies and is therefore, irrespective of my analysis, the only prediction that a ‘true’ prophet could have made. The word ‘Heaven’ simply means the place where god lives, and is also used in the Gospels as a synonym for Rome, the place where god – Caesar – actually lived.

In the above passage from Josephus, Titus learns that Simon came out of cave filled with ‘stonecutters’ at the spot the Temple had been left without “one stone atop another” – notice the witticism - and had caused himself to be ‘bound’ while he was at the location - Caesarea Philippi – where Jesus made the prophecies indicating that Simon was a ‘stone’ with the power to ‘bind’. This can be seen a continuation of ‘fishing for men at the Sea of Galilee’ theme shown in CM where what Jesus predicted came to pass for Titus at the same location where Jesus made the prophecy, which is an extension of the ‘location typology’ that connected Moses to Jesus found at the beginning of Matthew.

In the next part of the Matthew 16 Jesus suddenly calls Simon ‘Satan’.

Then he strictly ordered his disciples to tell no one that he was the Messiah.
From that time on, Jesus began to show his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer greatly from the elders, the chief priests, and the scribes, and be killed and on the third day be raised.
Then Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him, "God forbid, Lord! No such thing shall ever happen to you."
He turned and said to Peter, "Get behind me, Satan! You are an obstacle to me. You are thinking not as God does, but as human beings do."

The transition from Jesus giving Simon the ‘key to the kingdom of heaven’ and then next declaring him the head demon seems illogical and has puzzled some scholars who have seen the ‘Satan’ passage as a redaction or a pericope, but is coherent within the interpretation I offer. Simon is with a demon because he believes in the divinity of the Jewish Messiah – he has not ‘converted’ to the belief that Titus was the Messiah- and therefore disputes the notion that he will be killed. In the Gospels ‘wickedness’ and demonic possession are equivalent, and always indicate that a character is a member of the Jewish rebellion.

Jesus then predicts Simon’s fate.

Then Jesus said to his disciples, "Whoever wishes to come after me must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me.

For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.

What profit would there be for one to gain the whole world and forfeit his life? Or what can one give in exchange for his life?

For the Son of Man will come with his angels in his Father's glory, and then he will repay everyone according to his conduct.

Jesus then flatly states that this will happen during the coming war. The passage also suggests that Titus is the Son of Man who came in ‘his father’s glory’ and that the “kingdom to come” is Rome. No other straightforward interpretation of Jesus’s prophecy is possible.

Amen, I say to you, there are some standing here who will not taste death until they see the Son of Man coming in his kingdom."

In the next chapter, Matthew 17, Jesus experiences a ‘transformation’ that establishes him as the ‘son of God’. This foresees Vespasian being given the emperorship, and thus put him on his way to becoming a ‘diuus’ thereby making Titus a ‘son of god’. The ‘transformation’ passage in Matthew is obviously based upon Moses’ journey up the mountain to meet God and at first glance it is difficult to see the relationship between it and the passage in Josephus in which Vespasian is made emperor. (War 4, 10) However, the chapter that describes Vespasian becoming emperor is also linked to Moses in a number of subtle ways. First, the description of the Roman army Josephus gives in a previous chapter is very similar to the description of the Israelites as they made their way through the wilderness. A number of scholars have noticed this and Whiston’s footnote is a good example.

“This description of the exact symmetry and regularity of the Roman army, and of the Roman encampments, with the sounding their trumpets, etc. and order of war, described in this and the next chapter, is so very like to the symmetry and regularity of the people of Israel in the wilderness,”

Further, Josephus commentary on Vespasian’s becoming emperor includes a description of Egypt. As shown below this description can been seen as having been linked to the conditions the Israelites faced when trying to flee Pharaoh and then, like Vespasian, go on to conquer Judea. What Josephus is doing is showing that the Flavians are replacing the God of Judaism with themselves, the exact point of Josephus’s conversion story given below. In other words Josephus seems to recording a ‘miraculous’ parallel between Moses and Vespasian which shows that the Exodus ‘foresaw’ the Flavians conquest of the ‘promised land’. Such ‘literary miracles’ are to be expected from Josephus who flatly stated that the Flavians were a replacement for Judaism.

Here is Josephus’s description of Egypt at the time Vespasian became Emperor:

“And thus is Egypt walled about on every side….The haven also of Alexandria is not entered by the mariners without difficulty, even in times of peace; for the passage inward is narrow, and full of rocks that lie under the water, which oblige the mariners to turn from a straight direction: its left side is blocked up by works made by men's hands on both sides; on its right side lies the island called Pharus, which is situated just before the entrance, and supports a very great tower, that affords the sight of a fire to such as sail within three hundred furlongs of it, that ships may cast anchor a great way off in the night time, by reason of the difficulty of sailing nearer. About this island are built very great piers, the handiwork of men, against which, when the sea dashes itself, and its waves are broken against those boundaries, the navigation becomes very troublesome, and the entrance through so narrow a passage is rendered dangerous; yet is the haven itself, when you are got into it, a very safe one, and of thirty furlongs in largeness; into which is brought what the country wants in order to its happiness, as also what abundance the country affords more than it wants itself is hence distributed into all the habitable earth.”

Below are the parallels Josephus created to link the story of the Exodus to Vespasian and thereby show the ‘divine pattern’ which foresaw the Flavians usurping Judaism.
Exodus 3
For Pharaoh will say of the children of Israel, They are entangled in the land, the wilderness hath shut them in.
Josephus (above) “And thus is Egypt walled about on every side”
Exodus 22
And the children of Israel went into the midst of the sea upon the dry ground: and the waters were a wall unto them on their right hand, and on their left.
Josephus (above) passage (through) the water,,, its left side is blocked up by works made by men's hands on both sides; on its right side lies the island called Pharus, (notice the possible pun on Pharaoh)
Exodus 24 And it came to pass, that in the morning watch the LORD looked unto the host of the Egyptians through the pillar of fire and of the cloud, and troubled the host of the Egyptians,
Josephus (above) just before the entrance, and supports a very great tower, that affords the sight of a fire to such as sail within three hundred furlongs of it
Exodus 29 But the children of Israel walked upon dry land in the midst of the sea; and the waters were a wall unto them on their right hand, and on their left.
Josephus (above) About this island are built very great piers, the handiwork of men, against which, when the sea dashes itself, and its waves are broken against those boundaries, the navigation becomes very troublesome, and the entrance through so narrow a passage is rendered dangerous; yet is the haven itself, when you are got into it, a very safe one,
But the primary way Josephus description of Vespasian’s receiving of the emperorship is linked to Jesus’s ‘transfiguration’ comes from the fact that it concludes the three part story of Josephus’s conversion from the Jewish to the Flavian Messiah. Though the story of Josephus’s conversion from the Jewish Messiah to the Flavian one has received little analysis from scholars, it is nothing less than the blueprint for the creation of Christianity. Josephus’ conversion story begins when he lapses into an ecstasy during which God informs him that: “Since it pleaseth thee, who hast created the Jewish nation, to depress the same, and since all their good fortune is gone over to the Romans”. This epiphany is the basis for Josephus’s leaving the Jewish messianic movement and converting to a belief in the Flavian messiah. Here is the entire passage:
“Now Josephus was able to give shrewd conjectures about the interpretation of such dreams as have been ambiguously delivered by God. Moreover, he was not unacquainted with the prophecies contained in the sacred books, as being a priest himself, and of the posterity of priests: and just then was he in an ecstasy; and setting before him the tremendous images of the dreams he had lately had, he put up a secret prayer to God, and said, "Since it pleaseth thee, who hast created the Jewish nation, to depress the same, and since all their good fortune is gone over to the Romans, and since thou hast made choice of this soul of mine to foretell what is to come to pass hereafter, I willingly give them my hands, and am content to live. And I protest openly that I do not go over to the Romans as a deserter of the Jews, but as a minister from thee." (War 3, 354)
In the second piece of the story of Josephus’s conversion, he is taken to Titus and Vespasian where he ‘converts’, that is he switches the meaning of the Jew’s ‘star prophecy’ – the messianic prophecy – to the “government of Vespasian”. Notice that in doing so he voluntarily ‘binds’ himself to the Flavians,
When therefore they were all ordered to withdraw, excepting Titus and two of their friends, he said, "Thou, O Vespasian, thinkest no more than that thou hast taken Josephus himself captive; but I come to thee as a messenger of greater tidings; for had not I been sent by God to thee, I knew what was the law of the Jews in this case? and how it becomes generals to die. Dost thou send me to Nero? For why? Are Nero's successors till they come to thee still alive? Thou, O Vespasian, art Caesar and emperor, thou, and this thy son. Bind me now still faster, and keep me for thyself, for thou, O Caesar, are not only lord over me, but over the land and the sea, and all mankind; and certainly I deserve to be kept in closer custody than I now am in, in order to be punished, if I rashly affirm any thing of God." (War 3, 400-402)
There can be no doubt that Josephus is ‘transforming’ the Jews’ messianic prophecies to the Flavians above as he specifically states that in another passage:
“But now what did most elevate them in undertaking this war, was an ambiguous oracle that was also found in their sacred writings, how, about that time, one from their country should become governor of the habitable earth,,,Now this oracle certainly denoted the government of Vespasian.” (War 6, 312-313)
The third and final part of Josephus’s conversion occurs in the passage in which his ‘prophecies have come to pass and Vespasian has been made ‘world ruler’. In this passage he is “loosened”, which – as shown below – ‘fulfills’ the second of the two ‘binding and loosening” prophecies made by Jesus - the one made in Matthew 18 concerning the ‘convert’.
"It is a shameful thing (said he) that this man, who hath foretold my coming to the empire beforehand, and been the minister of a Divine message to me, should still be retained in the condition of a captive or prisoner." So he called for Josephus, and commanded that he should be set at liberty; Titus,,, said, "O father, it is but just that the scandal [of a prisoner] should be taken off Josephus, together with his iron chain. For if we do not barely loose his bonds, but cut them to pieces, he will be like a man that had never been bound at all." so there came a man in, and cut the chain to pieces; ,,, Josephus ,,,was ,,, thereby esteemed a person of credit as to futurities also.
Therefore, though the passages in Matthew 17 that describes Jesus’s acquiring the mantle of the son of God – the “transformation”- and the following story in Matthew 18 may seem on their surface to have no direct relationship to the Josephean passages in which Vespasian become emperor, they do share a number of concepts. Both stories describe an individual who become the focus of the Judaic ‘star prophecies’ – among only a few such individuals in history - directly followed by a story of a ‘convert’, and a passage describing a ‘binding’ and a ‘loosening’.
At this point the analysis will step through the passages in Matthew 17 and 18 line by line to show their linkage to the Josephus passages.
First, note that Jesus’s ‘transfiguring’ in Matthew 17 and the Gospels en toto, would have been seen by Josephus as simply more “ambiguous’ foreseeing of the ‘the Flavian god and his ‘beloved son’. I would point out that to understand any passage in the Gospels one only need to ask the following question: How would someone who thought that the messianic prophecies were an ‘ambiguous’ prophecy of the “government of Vespasian” have understood them?

After six days Jesus took Peter, James, and John his brother, and led them up a high mountain by themselves.
And he was transfigured before them; his face shone like the sun and his clothes became white as light.
And behold, Moses and Elijah appeared to them, conversing with him.
Then Peter said to Jesus in reply, "Lord, it is good that we are here. If you wish, I will make three tents here, one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah."
While he was still speaking, behold, a bright cloud cast a shadow over them, then from the cloud came a voice that said, "This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased; listen to him."

The next lines return to the theme of the question of the identity of the Christ.

When the disciples heard this, they fell prostrate and were very much afraid.
But Jesus came and touched them, saying, "Rise, and do not be afraid."
And when the disciples raised their eyes, they saw no one else but Jesus alone.
As they were coming down from the mountain, Jesus charged them, "Do not tell the vision to anyone until the Son of Man has been raised from the dead."
Then the disciples asked him, "Why do the scribes say that Elijah must come first?"
He said in reply, "Elijah will indeed come and restore all things;
but I tell you that Elijah has already come, and they did not recognize him but did to him whatever they pleased. So also will the Son of Man suffer at their hands."

Then the disciples understood that he was speaking to them of John the Baptist.

The following lines relate to the ‘demon’ that Simon was possessed with in Matthew 16, it should be noted that all of the concepts in Matthew 16 through 17 are linked. The author is familiar with the Hebraic literary technique of intertextual cocitation and is using it here. In other words, the child in Matthew 17 was possessed by the same ‘demon’ of belief in the Jewish Messiah as Simon was in the previous chapter and therefore he falls into the ‘fire and water’, as this is what Josephus recorded literally happened to members of the Jewish messianic movement. The disciples cannot cure the child because they are possessed by the same demon. This child who is freed of his demon in Matthew 17 is meant to then be compared with the child in the next chapter who ‘foresees’ Josephus - the convert - who has come to realize that the Vespasian is god and his son the ‘son of god’ or ‘Christ’. While all this may seemed complicated it will become clear shortly.

When they came to the crowd a man approached, knelt down before him, and said, "Lord, have pity on my son, for he is a lunatic and suffers severely; often he falls into fire, and often into water.
I brought him to your disciples, but they could not cure him."

Jesus’s next response refers to the generation that rebelled from Rome that had no faith in the divinity of Caesar.

Jesus said in reply, "O faithless and perverse generation, how long will I be with you? How long will I endure you? Bring him here to me."
Jesus rebuked him and the demon came out of him, and from that hour the boy was cured.
Then the disciples approached Jesus in private and said, "Why could we not drive it out?"

The disciples could not drive it out because they do not have the faith in the Flavian messiah.

He said to them, "Because of your little faith. Amen, I say to you, if you have faith the size of a mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, 'Move from here to there,' and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you."
As they were gathering in Galilee, Jesus said to them, "The Son of Man is to be handed over to men,
and they will kill him, and he will be raised on the third day." And they were overwhelmed with grief.

The following passage is not linked to the story of Josephus’s conversion but foresees Titus’s demand that Jews pay him the Temple tax. The analysis of the typology lengthy and I will not include it here, but it can be found on a post on the Caesar’s Messiah forum.

When they came to Capernaum, the collectors of the temple tax approached Peter and said, "Doesn't your teacher pay the temple tax?"
"Yes," he said. When he came into the house, before he had time to speak, Jesus asked him, "What is your opinion, Simon? From whom do the kings of the earth take tolls or census tax? From their subjects or from foreigners?"
23 When he said, "From foreigners," Jesus said to him, "Then the subjects are exempt.
But that we may not offend them, go to the sea, drop in a hook, and take the first fish that comes up. Open its mouth and you will find a coin worth twice the temple tax. Give that to them for me and for you."

Moving to Matthew18, Jesus again predicts a ‘binding and a loosening’ and the chapter operates as a mirror opposite of Chapter 16 where the focus of the same prophecy – obviously ‘Simon’ – has a demon. In Chapter 18 the focus of the ‘binding and a loosening’ prophecy is Josephus – who is ‘foreseen’ by the ‘child’ who has converted and will therefore – unlike Simon – be ‘loosened’. Josephus bar Matthias was also ‘foreseen’ in the Gospels by his ‘type’ Joseph of Arimathea.

At that time the disciples approached Jesus and said, "Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?"
He called a child over, placed it in their midst,

The “turning” or conversion that the ‘child’ has done in the line below foresees Josephus’s switching from a belief in a Jewish messiah to a belief in a Flavian one. The passage foresees the fact that Josephus was a ‘child’ to Vespasian in that he had made himself “his son”. Josephus’s conversion is being used as the arch type for the Jews who the Flavians hope to convert to their new Judaism.

and said, "Amen, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven.
Whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.
And whoever receives one child such as this in my name receives me.

At this point - Matthew 18: 6 -18 - Jesus’s statements become interactive with the Josephus story and create a line by line typological linkage to it so as to make it completely clear that the ‘child’ Jesus said had converted ‘foresees’ Josephus. Moreover the entire system of linkage becomes clear in the next lines when Jesus describes how it would be better to cut off ones hands than to sin, meaning in the context of the passage to prevent people from ‘converting’. As readers may judge for themselves the parallels between the following statements from Jesus and Josephus’s ‘conversion story’ regarding the “cutting off of hands” are too clear and complex to be circumstantial. The following parallels operate as an anchor for the entire typological linkage that I maintain exists between Matthew 16, 17 and 18 and the story of Josephus’s conversion.

"Whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to have a great millstone hung around his neck and to be drowned in the depths of the sea.
Woe to the world because of things that cause sin! Such things must come, but woe to the one through whom they come!
If your hand or foot causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to enter into life maimed or crippled than with two hands or two feet to be thrown into eternal fire.
And if your eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away. It is better for you to enter into life with one eye than with two eyes to be thrown into fiery Gehenna.

In the following passage (War 3, 373-379), which is part of the tale that leads up to his conversion, Josephus makes the same claim as Jesus does above concerning the cutting off of hands that ‘act against themselves’. The parallel between the positions of the two prophets become vivid when one considers the context of Josephus’s speech is, as shown below, a warning to those who would prevent someone from converting to the new Messiah, the exact context as that of Jesus’s prophecy concerning the ‘cutting off of hands’ in Matthew 18. And, as shown below, each story describing the cutting off of hands that prevent a conversion to the new Messiah will conclude with a ‘binding’ and a ‘loosening’.

“Moreover, our law justly ordains that slaves which run away from their master shall be punished, though the masters they run away from may have been wicked masters to them…While the souls of those whose hands have acted wildly against themselves, are received by the darkest place in Hades…Accordingly, our laws determine that the bodies of such as kill themselves should be exposed till the sun be set, without burial, although at the same time it be allowed by them to be lawful to bury our enemies [sooner]. The laws of other nations also enjoin such men's hands to be cut off when they are dead, which had been made use of in destroying themselves when alive, while they reckoned that as the body is alien from the soul, so is the hand alien from the body.."

The passage above immediately follows the first part of Josephus’s three part conversion story above, in which in his “ecstasy” he realized that the Jewish messianic prophecies predict the Flavians – this is the conversion that Jesus is warning against anyone trying to prevent in Matthew 18. However in the Josephus story following his ‘ecstasy’ the Jewish rebels refuse to let him ‘convert’ – to go over to the Flavian Messiah - and threaten to kill him if he tries to desert.

I must digress and note that the following parallel provides a clear method for understanding the Gospels. The author of Josephus has created a fictional story using the same concepts as those found in Jesus’s prophecy. But to see that the concepts are that the same a reader must comprehend that the rebels attempting to prevent Josephus from ‘converting’ are enacting the same concept that Jesus warned against in Matthew 18. A reader must look beyond the surface narration of Josephus’s zany conversion story and Jesus’s hocus pocus religious speak concerning a ‘convert’, to recognize that one story is foreseeing the other.

Thus, amazingly, the typology indicates that Jesus’s is speaking directly to the Jewish rebels with his statements above and below.

"See that you do not despise one of these little ones, for I say to you that their angels in heaven always look upon the face of my heavenly Father.

Josephus a ‘lost sheep’ who returned - from the Flavian perspective – is also the subject of the next part of the Matthew 18. The Flavians forgive him his discretion of rebelling against them because he ‘converted’ to the understanding that they were gods. .

What is your opinion? If a man has a hundred sheep and one of them goes astray, will he not leave the ninety-nine in the hills and go in search of the stray?
And if he finds it, amen, I say to you, he rejoices more over it than over the ninety-nine that did not stray.
In just the same way, it is not the will of your heavenly Father that one of these little ones be lost.
The following passages are among the most witty in the Gospels and relate to the ‘Josephus problem’ whereby, since they will not allow him to ‘convert’, Josephus talks forty Jewish rebels into drawing lots and killing one another. In other words the storyline in Matthew 18 is following that of Josephus’s description of his conversion to the Flavians. Bear in mind this interpretation is making sense of not one but two steams of ‘gibberish’. Jesus’s seemingly disjointed statements in Matthew 16-18 and Josephus’s ludicrous and obviously fictional account of his ‘conversion’.
"If your brother sins (against you), go and tell him his fault between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have won over your brother.
If he does not listen, take one or two others along with you, so that 'every fact may be established on the testimony of two or three witnesses.'
If he refuses to listen to them, tell the church. If he refuses to listen even to the church, then treat him as you would a Gentile or a tax collector.
Here is the passage describing the ‘Josephus problem’ that is interactive with the above statements from Jesus.
“However, in this extreme distress, he (Josephus) was not destitute of his usual sagacity; but trusting himself to the providence of God, he put his life into hazard [in the manner following]: "And now," said he, "since it is resolved among you that you will die, come on, let us commit our mutual deaths to determination by lot. He whom the lot falls to first, let him be killed by him that hath the second lot, and thus fortune shall make its progress through us all; nor shall any of us perish by his own right hand, for it would be unfair if, when the rest are gone, somebody should repent and save himself." This proposal appeared to them to be very just; and when he had prevailed with them to determine this matter by lots, he drew one of the lots for himself also. He who had the first lot laid his neck bare to him that had the next, as supposing that the general would die among them immediately; for they thought death, if Josephus might but die with them, was sweeter than life; yet was he with another left to the last, whether we must say it happened so by chance, or whether by the providence of God. And as he was very desirous neither to be condemned by the lot, nor, if he had been left to the last, to imbrue his right hand in the blood of his countrymen, he persuaded him to trust his fidelity to him, and to live as well as himself. “ (War 3, 387-391)
The lines 14-17 in Matthew 18 continue the parallelism established by the ‘cutting off of hands” and describe what ‘god’ would have wished Josephus to do if the last individual would not have agreed to end their commitment to kill one another but instead had – in Jesus’s language - ‘sinned’ by trying to prevent the child from ‘conversion’. The witty logic runs as follows: because it is the ‘will of the father’ that not one of his ‘converts’ be killed then, had the last man not “listened” and agreed to void the contract, this would have been - “his fault between you and him alone” – since no on else was left alive. To solve this problem, Josephus would have simply needed to add “one or two others” which thereby would have enabled him to continue the process and “treat him - the one who “does not listen” - as you would a “Gentile or a tax collector” - in other words the person you would kill first, which would leave either “two or three witnesses”. The reason that there would be either “two or three witnesses” at this point is because before the “one who would not listen’s” death there would have been either three or four. These would have been Josephus, the one who would not listen, and the either one or two others brought ‘along to create a “church” or congregation, from which you now subtract the one who ‘does not listen’ - who has been treated “as you would a tax collector” - leaving either two or three witnesses.

Matthew 18 now moves to Jesus’s second prediction of a ‘binding’. The reader will notice that within my interpretation the second appearance of the prophecy is not a ‘redaction’ or reflective of the influence of some imagined congregation, but is completely logical as it stands. The reason that there is a second ‘binding and loosening’ prophecy is because it refers to a second individual, not the ‘Stone’ but the ‘convert’.

Amen, I say to you, whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.

Thus, the second ‘binding and loosening’ passage from Jesus relates to a ‘child’ and a ‘brother’ who has ‘turned’ or converted. This can only be Josephus, who was a son to Vespasian (god the father) and a brother to Titus (the son of God). The following passage is the third and final piece of the story of Josephus’s conversion and shows that - by his conversion - Josephus has fulfilled Jesus’s prophecy in and has ‘loosed’ himself by becoming a convert like the child in Matthew 18. Notice that he is not only loosed on the ‘earth’ but, just as Jesus foresaw, in the future -that is, in ‘heaven’ or Rome, and that his reputation is “esteemed” in the future, again linking to the child in Matthew 18 who was called “the greatest in heaven”.

While the typology is complex, the moral is simple. Simon did not ‘turn’ from his demon and convert to a belief that the Flavians were gods and so was bound on earth (John 21) and in heaven – Rome (War 7, 154), whereas the ‘child’ Josephus did convert, brought the ‘Divine messages’ to the Flavians below and was “loosed”.

"It is a shameful thing (said he) that this man, who hath foretold my coming to the empire beforehand, and been the minister of a Divine message to me, should still be retained in the condition of a captive or prisoner." So he called for Josephus, and commanded that he should be set at liberty; Titus,,, said, "O father, it is but just that the scandal [of a prisoner] should be taken off Josephus, together with his iron chain. For if we do not barely loose his bonds, but cut them to pieces, he will be like a man that had never been bound at all." so there came a man in, and cut the chain to pieces; ,,, Josephus ,,,was ,,, thereby esteemed a person of credit as to futurities also.

Such complex linkage could not have survived if the Gospels were in fact a “theological chain letter” and they still ‘reveal’ the meaning of their Flavian authors.

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Joe Atwill