Here's another take on the Jesus-Arsacid connection by Ralph Ellis, summarizing his upcoming book:
Cleopatra To Christ
By Ralph Ellis
In my previous book, Jesus, Last of the Pharaohs, I demonstrated that Jesus was a prince, related in some manner to the Egyptian royal line. But the finer details of exactly who Jesus was related to, and how far back into Egyptian history one needed to go in order to find these family links, were unclear.
The problem being, of course, that any potential researcher of the New Testament story has very little to go on. The biblical and historical accounts that detail Jesus’ birth and ancestry can be summarised in a single paragraph, and that is simply not enough information to place him into the historical record – or is it?
The children’s story of the life of Jesus, as it is presented to us in the New Testament accounts, is well known. He was supposedly a poor carpenter born in a stable, a disadvantaged child who rose to become a great leader and teacher. However, as I have previously demonstrated, this fairy-tale bears no resemblance to the truth whatsoever. There is more than enough evidence within the biblical texts themselves to conclusively prove that Jesus’ family were actually wealthy, educated and influential characters within Judaean society.
Jesus himself was not a carpenter but a tekton or an ‘architect’; although this term probably refers more to the speculative side of the masonic Craft than the construction profession. He was visited by the three Magi, the Persian kingmakers. He received a good education in Egypt, at a time when the majority of the population were illiterate. His friends, Zacharias and Nicodemus, were very rich; while another supporter, Joanna, was the wife of Herod’s vizier or prime minister.
I have also demonstrated, by carefully scrutinising the accounts of Josephus Flavius, that Jesus was governor of Tiberias, owned a castle in that region and controlled a private militia some 600 strong. More importantly, Jesus’ birth was deemed by Herod to be a threat to his royal lineage, forcing him to apparently kill all the male infants in the region in order to eradicate this pretender to the throne – an act or rumour which clearly demonstrates that Jesus was a prince of some influence within Judaean society. In fact, the mocking claim of Jesus to be the ‘King of the Jews’ was no mockery at all, for he was indeed a legitimate pretender to many of the thrones of the Middle East. Undoubtedly, Jesus’ parents’ ultimate goal was to see him seated upon one of those thrones, which is why the king or the tetrarchs of Judaea feared his presence in that region.
Egyptian or Persian?
The problem with this alternative interpretation of the New Testament, is that the various texts that detail the circumstances of Jesus’ birth and education would seem to be incompatible. According to these, we appear to be looking into the historical record for an exiled prince who was of both Egyptian and Persian descent. In addition, we need to discover a prince who was influential enough to make his mark on the history of Judaea, but obscure enough to be easily lost to most of real recorded history. The question is, therefore, whether any prince within the historical record would fit all of these widely differing requirements.
Strange as it may seem, there is such a royal family. They were indeed influential kings and queens, and yet it is known that they were exiled from their homeland and settled in an area called Bethanya [Bethany], near Judaea, in about AD 4. They brought with them into exile 500 cavalry and 100 relations and retinue; an account which tallies with Josephus’ accounts of the biblical family maintaining their own military forces. In Syrio-Judaea, this exiled royal family raised a new generation and founded a new society that competed strongly with the traditional Judaean authorities in Jerusalem.
Moreover, members of this exiled royal family were not only directly related to Queen Cleopatra VII of Egypt, but also to Emperor Julius Caesar of Rome and to King Phraates IV of Parthia (or Persia). In other words, this family was hugely influential, relatively unknown, suddenly impoverished and, in addition, uniquely related to all three of the major empires of this era. With its enfeebled exiled circumstances this family was essentially powerless, but never without influence. They were also impoverished, for a royal family with such an illustrious pedigree, but never without wealthy, well-placed backers and supporters.
Here, we have a previously influential royal family living in obscure exile in biblical Bethany, and yet this is a family that appears to meet all of our diverse requirements. This was indeed a family that would have been visited by the Parthian Magi, yet is likely to have educated its sons in Egypt. This was indeed a family that could have made Herod (the tetrarch) fear for his position, sufficient for him to want to eliminate all the male children of Judaea.
So who were this family, whose history parallels the biblical story so closely? Well, just before the assassination of Julius Caesar in 44 BC, it was strongly rumoured that Queen Cleopatra (who was living in Caesar’s palace in Rome) was pregnant, and therefore may have been about to produce an heir to the Roman empire. Cicero says of this:
I am grieved to hear of Tertia’s loss of an expected child ... (but) I should be glad of such a loss in the case of the queen (Cleopatra) and that [expected] heir of the breed of Caesar.
But the panic soon subsided and the rumours diminished. But why? Had Cleopatra really had a miscarriage, as Cicero desired? While this is possible, I personally think that Cleopatra gave birth to a daughter, who would have had no claim to the patrelineal Roman empire and was therefore a great disappointment to Cleopatra.
(I mused this possiblility with Charles this spring when we were addressing the very topic, when he was vetting his Herodian typecasting. Then, just recently, in response to my post, Charles posted "Jubba Jabber", and made some fascinating insights drawing back to some of these conclusions. I don't know if has seen this essay though, so I hope he is lurking this thread. - ed: tim)
Nothing is heard of this child until after Cleopatra’s death in 30 BC. In about 25 BC Augustus (Octavian), the new emperor of Rome, was busy securing diplomatic relations with his bordering nations. To his old childhood friend Jubba II, he gave the territories of Mauretania (North Africa), and as a royal wife he gave him Cleopatra Selene, another daughter of Cleopatra VII. Thus Jubba II was quite honoured, as his bride was a royal princess of illustrious pedigree and regarded by Egyptians as an incarnation of Isis.
His southern borders secure, Augustus now turned his attention to Parthia (Persia) in the east. The monarch of this vast and powerful nation was Phraates IV, and since there had been various hostilities between Phraates and Rome over the years, this influential leader was going to need a very special present indeed to demonstrate Rome’s peaceful intent. Accordingly, Augustus gave Phraates IV a common prostitute called Thea Muse Ourania!
One might suspect that such a sleight to Phraates’ honour and status would have instantly precipitated a war. But no, Phraates was so impressed with his ‘prostitute’ that he made Thea Muse his chief wife, and nominated their future son as heir to the kingdom. So how can this be so? For many reasons, I believe that Thea Muse was not a common prostitute, but a hostage, as the Parthians referred to all hostages in similar derogatory terms. In fact, all the evidence points towards Thea Muse being the long-lost daughter of Cleopatra and Julius Caesar; which is why Thea Muse’s daughter was known as Julia.
We move on by 20 or so years, and a great intrigue was about to descend upon the Parthian royal court. Thea Muse desired the throne for her son, and so she had Phraates IV poisoned. Then, in an act that came straight from the Egyptian Ptolemaic royal line, she married her son, Phraataces. Unimpressed by this Egyptian-style marriage, the Parthian nobles rebelled, and so Thea Muse and Phraataces, plus their assorted courtiers and 500 cavalry, were exiled to Syria in AD 4. The place they settled in was called Bethnaya, which I equate with the biblical Bethany. The new city state that they built in this area was later called the Kingdom of Ourania, after Thea Muse Ourania, and that is its name to this day (the Huran, east of Amman in Jordan). However, in English this translates as the Kingdom of Heaven.
What I was looking for was a royal prince who was of the Egyptian and Parthian (Persian) royal lines, and who was to be found in exile and relative poverty in Judaeo-Syria in about AD 4. Here we have a family who can fulfil each and every one of those requirements. And so any son born of this family, in their new exile in Ourania, would have had an identical history to the biblical Jesus.
But Thea Muse was an Egypto-Persian queen, and her son, Phraataces, was an Egypto-Persian prince or king. So how could any son, born of this family, have been regarded as a Jew who was a threat to the rule of the Herodian tetrarchs? Well, as Strabo says of Israel:
This region lies towards the north; and it is inhabited ... by mixed stocks of people from Egyptian and Arabian and Phoenician tribes ... But though the inhabitants are mixed up thus, the most prevalent of the accredited reports in regard to the Temple at Jerusalem, represents the ancestors of the present Judaeans as Egyptians.
In other words, an Egypto-Persian prince born in exile in the Kingdom of Ourania, to the east of the river Jordan, could well have been regarded as a Jew and therefore a threat to the rule of the Judaean monarchs. Not only that, but he could also have been a threat to the rule of the Roman emperors and the Parthian kings, because it was possible that this new prince (Jesus, with his sister-wife Mary Magdalene) could have united the entire Roman and Parthian empires into one single, united kingdom. This was the source of Jesus’ influence and power, and the reason why people flocked to hear him speak – for he was the prince of all the known world.
(Ralph has nailed what I have getting at in my slightly more oblique, but perhaps more cautious way -ed: tim)
Unfortunately, this was to be a dream that was to be unfulfilled. Roman opposition to Jesus as the King of the Jews and the Roman empire was absolute, and the royal prince was unable to raise enough support to sit on a united throne. However, through the egocentric and vainglorious, but dogged and diligent, industry of Saul-Josephus, the family of Jesus did eventually conquer all of the Roman Empire and much of the Parthian Empire too. Thus, Jesus’ campaign was ultimately successful and he did indeed sit upon the throne of Rome as a god incarnate, just as previous Roman emperors had done. But this conquest was an empty victory, for it was in name only.
Despite Jesus’ nominative success and world domination over two millennia, the ultimate question remains unanswered – could we yet discover a real family behind the victorious icon?
© Charles N. Pope, US Library of Congress. All rights reserved.