Faith of the Apostles 5

CHAPTER FIVE

Intrigue

Jesus and John appear in 29 A.D., a time that was rife with seditions, revolt, and civil unrest. And it is not as though one or two incidents had warmed the people to this end. The causes of the coming conflict were manifold, and deeply set in the minds of the Palestinian Jews.

The Maccabees had not been forgotten by any means, for the wars had only ended ninety-two years before, and Hanukah was celebrated annually as a remembrance of the great victories of the Maccabees. The remnant of that army still haunted the mountains of Judea and its wilderness.

The ruthlessness of Archelaus and the murder of three thousand in the temple, most of them Galileans, had only taken place twenty-three years before the appearance of Jesus. Surely he was aware of these events, and those atrocities that preceded them.

On another occasion, after Sabinus had taken over Varus’ legions and became Roman Procurator, even worse scandal evoked great rioting. The Jews were celebrating Pentecost at Jerusalem. Tens of thousands had entered the city. Josephus makes a point of stating that a great number were Galileans and Idumeans, many from Jericho, the hot beds of insurrection and sedition. They came to celebrate the festival and to assail Sabinus for the way he was treating them.

“…this tumult being usually excited at some of the Jews great festivals, when they slew abundance of sacrifices, and the Galileans being commonly much more busy in such tumults than those of Judea and Jerusalem.”

The battle that broke out killed thousands, including soldiers of the Roman legions and Herod’s army. The Jews in this case, had come prepared for open warfare. Many of them rose up to the roof tops of the temple porticos and cloisters so that they could shoot down at the enemy.

“However, the Romans ventured to make a sally out of their place, and a terrible battle ensued; wherein, though it is true the Romans beat their adversaries, yet were not the Jews daunted in their resolutions, even when they had the sight of that terrible slaughter that was made of them; but they went round about, and got upon those cloisters which encompassed the outer court of the Temple, where a great fight was still continued… at last the Romans, who were greatly distressed by what was done, set fire to the cloisters…”

Josephus notes that the damage was so bad, repair work was not finished until the time of Nero (54 A.D. – 68 A.D.). Eighteen thousand were employed in the rebuilding, during which time the Temple treasury was raided and emptied by the Romans. The destruction was all too evident in Jesus’ day, and memorials must have been plentiful, especially during the time of Pentecost.

Pontius Pilate continued the murder of the Palestinians.

With all this seething in an occupied nation, Pontius Pilate was sent by Rome to quell the riots and insurrectionist violence in Jerusalem and Judea in the year, 29 A.D. As procurator, he ruled with an iron hand.

“But Pilate undertook to bring a current of water to Jerusalem, and did it with the sacred money, and derived the origin of the stream from the distance of two hundred furlongs. However, the Jews were not pleased with what he had done about this water…” 196

Pilate sent his soldiers, dressed as civilians, with concealed weapons, into the midst of the mob. When the Jews refused to leave, Pilate gave the order to attack them. A massacre ensued.

“…since the people were unarmed, and were caught by men who were prepared for what they were about, there were a great number of them slain by this means…”

Whether, William Whiston, authored the footnote to this section of Josephus, it is an incorrect assumption. It is quoted as follows:

“These Jews, as they are here called, whose blood Pilate shed on this occasion, may very well be those very Galilean Jews, whose blood Pilate had mingled with their sacrifices’, (Luke XIII. 1,2:) these tumults being usually excited at some of the Jews’ great festivals, when they slew abundance of sacrifices, and the Galileans being commonly much more busy in such tumults than those of Judea and Jerusalem.”

Jesus’ words are made to echo with remembrance of that day by the evangelist.

“There were some present at that very time who told him of the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mingled with their sacrifices. And he answered them, “Do you think that these Galileans were worse sinners than all the other Galileans, because they suffered thus? I tell you, No; but unless you repent you will all likewise perish.”

Jesus was openly warning the seditionists, his own Galilean brethren, that if they persisted in rioting and preaching sedition, they would also die by the sword. This is a purely political statement as was the following:

“Or those eighteen upon whom the tower in Siloam fell and killed them, do you think that they were worse offenders than all the others who dwelt in Jerusalem? I tell you, No; but unless you repent you will all likewise perish.”

With this in mind, once again we must speak of the inaccuracies and contradictions involved in the Gospels. The, “…blood Pilate had mingled with their sacrifices…” had nothing to do with the riots against Pilate. None of them that we are aware of occurred during Pentecost, as did the great ‘temple siege’ during the reign of, Sabinus. Again, Luke is guilty of an inconsistency.

Without the assistance of secular history, I am afraid we would be lost in our search for the true Gospel story. Obviously, Jesus would have had a greater recollection of the recent history of his people than did the Gospel writer.

We must accept Jesus’ words in Luke 13:1-2, as an erroneous addition to since the slaughter referred to did not take place during Pilate’s reign.

At the same time, Philip Herod renamed the city of Bethsaida, Julius, and made it a Roman city. This was the home of the majority of Jesus’ disciples, Simon, Andrew, James, John, and the home of Zebedee. These men were up in arms, ready to strike out at the moment they were given a leader. For with Salome dead and the family of Maccabees all but gone, the one element they lacked was a charismatic leader like Matathias and his son, Judas.

It was also the year when the procurator of Judea banned the Samaritans from the temple, for they had desecrated it with dead bodies on the eve of the Passover. A people unloved by the orthodoxy, it was written that no Jew was ever permitted to marry a Samaritan, for they were considered, “worse than those who ate pork.” The loss of the murdered Samaritans was of little consequence to the Jews but of great importance to our search.

In addition to these events, Pontius Pilate, in open defiance of the Jews’ Holy City, moved his troops into, Jerusalem, occupying it as their winter quarters. In doing so, he brought Caesar’s effigy and standards into the Holy City. No one had ever done this before. Pilate was the first, and he did it at night. He did it with the intention of bringing the Jews into open conflict with his authority. Only later would he dare to move them directly into the temple. Outrage upon outrage, and the Zealots roared in protest as the entire nation rose up in arms.

A multitude entered Caesarea to intercede for the removal of the army from the Holy City, but Pilate refused. When the Jews persisted he prepared his troops with weapons to put down the uprising. The Jews, however, refused to leave, and even at the threat of death, lay down and prepared to die. Pilate backed down at the last moment and removed his army back to Caesarea.

But the final straw is one that history has long kept from our eyes. Why? Because it involved the heroism of a woman at a time when women were unmentionable, especially if they were gentile!

The one person in a place of authority and power that had ever sided with the Palestinians, was Herod the Great’s sister, Salome. She had saved the lives of thousands of Jews whom Herod had imprisoned in 6 B.C., and it only follows that she was in great favor among them. She may even have been a factor in keeping the nation from flaring into total, unrestricted warfare. In 29 A.D., Salome was dead.

No one now held favor with the Jews, or stood unyielding, on their behalf. At this momentous period in Palestinian history, Jesus and the Apostles appear in the area of the Holy city. So, it is not without reason, and the circumstances of history, that the anointed one comes into public view for the first time. It is not without reason, it is not without purpose, and it is not without the design of the Lord God.

All this in the year 29 A.D., the year in which Joshua bar Joseph and John the Baptizer, first appear in the light of history. With them come the Galileans, Simon, Andrew, James, John, Levi, and Judas Iscariot. At least seven of the twelve are of that area of Palestine which had been pressured, insulted, and outraged by Herod and Rome. It is impossible to imagine that in all of this conflagration, the ministry of both Jesus and John were not tempered by, and subject to, the events and the conditions of their time.

With this compilation of history, we must look to the prime source available to us concerning the preaching of John and the ministry of Jesus, to bring things into order. The Gospels must now speak for themselves.

Riots and insurrection filled Palestine in those days, all aimed at the Herodians and the Romans. Whenever Josephus and the Greek scriptures refer to a ‘thief’, or a ‘robber’, it is understood that they actually mean an ‘insurrectionist’, one actively involved in the act of terrorism. The Palestinians, however, viewed themselves as loyalists, patriots fighting for their lives and their freedom.

The heroic adventures of the Maccabees was memorialized every year in the festival of Hanukah. The memory of, Sabinus, and the Pentecost slaughter, and the murder of three thousand by Archelaus in the temple, most of them Galileans, was fresh in the mind of Jerusalem. In Jesus’ time, the destruction in the Temple was all too evident, and it stood as a memorial to the “freedom” fighters of his day, and the hundreds that Pilate had killed in the temple that very year of 29 A.D., filled Palestine with an anger that was ready for bloodshed.

One element remained to be filled, the appearance of a new and powerful leader.

Beyond the Jordan, in the mountains, the wilderness, a host lay ready to take up arms. Those who had revolted from Herod the Great’s army, Idumean’s opposed to the reign of the Herods, Galileans, Palestinian zealots, the remnant of the Maccabean army, the Hassidic Jews of the revolt, and John, son of Zebedee who was called the baptizer.

“Now, there was about this time, Jesus, a wise man, if it be lawful to call him a man, for he was a doer of wonderful works, a teacher of such men as receive the truth with pleasure. He drew over to him both many of the Jews, and many of the Gentiles.”

In the synoptic Gospels, there is no physical description of Jesus. We are told, however, a considerable amount about, John. We are told about the foretelling of his birth, his parents, where he was born, when he was born, his ancestry, where he carried out his ministry, what he was doing, how he was doing it, what he wore, and what he ate.

“Now in the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar, Pontius Pilate being governor of Judea, and Herod being tetrarch of Galilee, and his brother Philip Tetrarch of Iturea and the region of Trachonitis and Lysanias and Tetrarch of Abilene, Annas and Caipahas being the high priests, the word of God came unto John the son of Zacharias in the wilderness.”

The year was 29 A.D..

“John did baptize in the wilderness, and preach the baptism of repentance for the remission of sins.”

“And John was clothed with camel’s hair, and with a girdle of a skin about his loins; and he did eat locusts and wild honey.”

“In those days came John the Baptist, preaching in the wilderness of Judea.”

“And the same John had his rainment of camel’s hair, and a leathern girdle about his loins; and his meat was locusts and wild honey.”

It was an age of power, pure and simple, the struggle for wealth and recognition from Rome. Herod the tetrarch was ever in passage between Jerusalem and Rome when Tiberius Nero came into his reign in 14 A.D.. In courting the third Emperor, he went as far as to construct an entire city which he named, Tiberius in honor of Caesar. It was built in Galilee, on the shores of lake Gennesareth, in the year 25 A.D., and it was an outrageous insult to the Jews of that immediate area, the same place in which Jesus lived and chose his disciples.

“And now Herod, the tetrarch, who was in great favor with Tiberius, built a city of the same name with him, and called it Tiberius. He built it in the best part of Galilee, at the lake of Gennesareth… For he was sensible, that to make this place a habitation was to transgress the Jewish ancient laws, because many sepulchers were to be here taken away in order to make room for the city, Tiberias: whereas our law pronounces that such inhabitants are unclean for seven days.”

It was populated with freed slaves and non-Jews who were paid to inhabit it, even some Galileans were forced to live in the pleasure city. But they had no honor nor were they free of the shame of the desecration of Jewish tombs and crypts. The city had been built on top of an ancient cemetery, profaning, not only the dead, but the Law of Moses. The city was cursed, and it was an abomination for Jews to inhabit such a place. This was done in Jesus’ backyard, in the very sight of his family and his disciples. It was built next to Peter’s home, the homes of Zebedee, and James, and John. And in further insult, the Sea of Galilee, was renamed, The Sea of Tiberius.

This was an outrage as great as that of Antiochus IV, by whose actions against the Jews, started the Wars of the Maccabees, and forced the formation of a Jewish nation in Palestine. Antipas had committed a great sacrilege, and the Jews were outraged. The city of Tiberius was built on the north coast of the Sea of Galilee, between Nazareth and Capernium.

In this same year, Joseph Caiaphas was named high priest, and Pontius Pilate was appointed Procurator, having been named by their sworn master, the Emperor. Be aware that all these men owed their position and wealth to one power, Rome, and to Tiberius Caesar. This hated individual, Joseph Caiaphas, was still the center of great civil strife which divided the nation on the question of a continuing aristocracy comprised of the priesthood. It was, as Jesus noted, ‘…a nation divided’.

The ministry of John and Jesus has been picked clean by theologians and the clergy. And if they have related the gentle, compassionate figure of Jesus a thousand times, none of the excitement of the age has been passed on to us. The history in which these two men and their followers lived out their lives has been completely ignored, and yet, the tenor of their actions, attitudes, and teachings, were often colored by things over which they had no control.

These men who came to Judea in 29 A.D., were incensed men, outraged men who were to speak publicly, angrily, and fearlessly.

“You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come? Bear fruit that befits repentance… Even now the axe is laid to the root of the trees; every tree therefore that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.”

Preaching a ministry of repentance and the coming of God’s kingdom, John allowed himself to speak out against the social and moral values of the ruling hierarchy.

“But Herod the Tetrarch, being reproved by him for Herodias his brother Philip’s wife, and for all the evils which Herod had done, added yet this above all, that he shut up John in prison.”

In attempting to hide any possible implication leading one to believe that John might have had political motivations, the Gospel tells us that he raved against Herod and his wife, Herodious, for their illicit affair and marriage, which was in violation of Jewish law. For this reason alone, the Gospel tells us that John was arrested and thrown into prison. Even Josephus joins the fray on this point.

“”…..she took upon herself to confound the laws of our country, and divorce herself from her husband while he was alive, and was married to Herod Antipas, her husband’s brother by the father’s side…..”

But in stating this complaint in order to keep John’s part solely associated with a spiritual mission, and to protect his memory from blemish, Josephus and the Gospels give themselves away. Josephus has made a startling remark.

“…..her husband’s brother by the father’s side.”

The Herods were Idumeans, and they were not Jews! And these two men were not brothers!

“Once more the Jews had a king, and one worthy of the name. Despite his unpopularity – he was hated as the tool of Rome, as the one responsible for the fall of the royal house, as an Idumean, not a Jew – he proved to be Israel’s greatest king.”

The practice of this heathen nation, in so far as inter-marriage is concerned, is well-known. It was illogical and senseless for John to carry on over this act when the family openly married cousins, nephews, uncles and aunts, or whomever else they pleased. Divorce and conjugal agreements were rampant within the house of Herod and Rome. There would have been far more for John to worry about than this one act, if in fact, it concerned him in the least.

Here, it is proper to examine the execution of the baptizer, and the real reasons for Herod’s stern judgment of John. The Gospels tell us that it was due to John’s continuing tirades against Herod’s scandalous affair with Herodias, for breaking Jewish law. History tells us another story, as do the Gospels, when carefully examined.

“For Herod had laid hold on John, and he bound him, and put him in prison for Herodias’ sake, his brother Philip’s wife. For John said unto him, ‘It is not lawful for thee to have her.'”

“For Herod himself had sent forth and laid hold upon John, and bond him in prison for Herodias’ sake, his brother Philip’s wife; for he had married her. For John had said unto Herod, ‘It is not lawful for thee to have thy brother’s wife. Therefore Herodias had a quarrel against him…”

In all of this we may feel an undercurrent of political unrest for we are now told that Herod hesitated to kill John because he feared his popularity with the people. He was even considered, by some, to be a prophet. Herod did not need a martyr on his hands, however, considering the history of Herod’s family, it is doubtful whether those in the house of Herod would have blinked an eye at killing anyone.

As to Salome’s dance, it is doubtful that it ever occurred in real life.

“For when Herodias’ daughter came in and danced, she pleased Herod and his guests; and the king said to the girl, “Ask me for whatever you wish… “I want you to give me at once the head of John the Baptist on a platter…”

“The only daughter of Herodias known to history is, Salome, who married Philip and later her cousin Aristobulus. Oriental parties were usually for men only. While the Herod’s were lax in their morals, it would have been exceptional for a princess to dance before such a company. At the time when this occurred, she may already have been married to Philip.”

Philip? We have been told that Herodias had been married to Philip, but now Salome may have been married to him also. Why doesn’t John cry out against Salome? And which Philip did either woman marry, for you see, there were three Herods involved in this affair; Herod Antipas, Philip, and Philip Herod!

We have an absolute need to see how secular history deals with this subject, because biblical history is in great error. The story of Herod’s ‘adulterous’ affair is validated in the works of Josephus, and in that work, the historian makes an amazing statement which we are forced to deal with. For clarity sake, the words in question are italicized by this writer.

“About this time Aretas (the king of Arabia Petrea) and Herod, had a quarrel, on the account following: Herod the tetrarch had married the daughter of Aretas, and had lived with her a great while; but when he was once at Rome, he lodged with Herod, who was his brother indeed, but not by the same mother… However, he fell in love with Herodias, this last Herod’s wife… an agreement was made for her to change her habitation, and came to him as soon as he should return from Rome…”

This is the polite way of saying that she left her husband to live with Herod the tetrarch, thus drawing John’s outspoken anger against them. On the one hand, why would Herod care what John said? He did this openly and without embarrassment before the entire nation. What effect could the raving of one man have upon his great house and the power of Rome? But the Jews give us another reason for John’s death, one that is neither religious or moral. It is purely political.

John’s act, if it had actually taken place, would have been one of civil disobedience, an open criticism of Herod, and therefore, of Rome. And in doing so, whether intended or not, he would have raised public opinion and opposition against Herod and his reign. In a nation where civil uprisings occurred daily, where sedition was being preached throughout Palestine, and terrorism was incurring riot everywhere, John’s popularity and influence raised an immediate threat to the throne, and to Rome. To this end, Josephus records the following:

“Now, some of the Jews thought that the destruction of Herod’s army came from God, and that very justly, as a punishment of what he did against John, that was called the Baptist; for Herod slew him; who was a good man… Now, when many others came to crowd about him, for they were greatly moved (or pleased) by hearing his words, Herod, who feared lest the great influence John had over the people might put it into his power an inclination to raise a rebellion, (for they seemed ready to do anything he should advise,) thought it best, by putting him to death, to prevent any mischief he might cause, and not bring himself into difficulties by sparing a man who might make him repent of it when it should be too late. Accordingly, he was sent a prisoner, out of Herod’s suspicious temper, to Macherus, the castle I before mentioned, and was there put to death.”

“…he was killed by Herod Antipas, who feared that John’s activity could lead to a revolt, presumably of a messianic nature.”

There are several areas of contention here, for the Gospel writers seem to have had little knowledge of the immediate history of Palestine, the Herod’s, and Jewish law. This is amazing in light of the validity that theologians have placed in these stories. Not only are they contending with each other over the myth of Salome’s dance, the following facts bring the Gospel’s recording of history into question.

Philip and Herod were not brothers, not by Jewish custom or tradition. Relationships of this nature were ruled by the mother, and these men had different mothers. At best they were half brothers, but not of such a kinship as the Greek text would point out. Also, it was not against the law for a woman to divorce and marry another, if she had no minor children. Was her daughter by Philip, Salome, of the mythical seven veils, a minor child? According to history, she was a princess of Idumea and the house of Herod, but there is no suggestion that she was a minor dependent upon her mother to sustain life. As the Interpreter’s Bible, stated, she may already have been married to Philip at this point in time.

Certainly the fact that Philip did not put aside his wife, she divorced him, would have had much to say about the condition of Idumean women of royal blood in this historical setting.

Again, we must point out, and most important in this case, is the fact that the Herod’s were not Jews! They were Idumeans, not Palestinians or Judeans. They were no longer under any responsibility to follow Jewish custom as it had been forced upon them years before.

“Hyrcanus took also Dora and Marissa, cities of Idumea, and subdued all the Idumeans; and permitted them to stay in that country, if they would circumcise their genitals, and make use of the laws of the Jews.”

The footnote to this section is as follows.

“This account of the Idumeans admitting circumcision, and the entire Jewish law, from this time, or from the days of Hyrcanus, is confirmed by their entire history afterwards… However, Antigonus, the enemy of Herod, though Herod were derived from such a proselyte of justice for several generations, will allow him to be no more than a half-Jew. Ammonius, a grammarian says:-“The Jews are such by nature, and from the beginning, whilst the Idumeans are not Jews from the beginning, but Phoenicians and Syrians.”

Thus speaks Josephus, and history. Once subdued by the Jewish armies, their nation had been forced into practicing circumcision. When they came to rule Syria-Judea through the power of Rome, they were considered, ‘half-Jews’ by the orthodox.

“But the “empire” was fragile in the extreme. All this territory had been superficially ‘Judiazed’. The conquered had been forced to be circumcised and prescribe to Jewish law. But lasting unity was not to be achieved by such rough and ready methods.” 215

Thus the enigmatic, Interpreter’s Bible, reads history for us. Again, the reality of the situation is repeated in further text from that volume. I repeat the case against the Gospel story.

Once Herod was dead, the despot, Archelaus ruled along with Philip and Herod Antipas. It is interesting to note here that the dialogue attributed to John the Baptist concerning the marriage of Herodias to Herod Antipas. As we have pointed out, the Idumeans were not Jews, so they had no responsibility to Jewish law. Second, at the time of the later marriage, Herodias had already been divorced from Philip through an action invoked by her! Also, she was a divorced woman with no minor child, and was free to marry whom-so-ever she desired, even under Jewish Law. Third, Herod Antipas and Philip were not brothers.

Kinship, especially of blood relations, was established by the mother. Herod Antipas and Philip did not have the same mother! Philip’s mother was one named, Cleopatra, also the mother of Archelaus, not Herod Antipas. Herod’s mother was, Herodias! John’s wailing against house Herod would seem to be pointless.

If John, or any other, had cared to dispute with the Herod’s, there were many good reasons to do so. Herod had two daughters. Salampsio married her first cousin, the son of Phasselus, Herod’s brother, and Cypros, who also married her first cousin, Antipater. This was the son of Salome, Herod’s sister.

“…took upon herself to compound the laws of our country, and divorce herself from her husband, while he was alive, and was married to Herod Antipas, her husband’s brother by the father’s side. Josephus was truly pressing a point to satisfy his fellow Jews.”

It is strange that John is silent concerning the marriage of first cousins, which is against the Law of the Jews. These involvements were certainly far more damning than the cause the Gospels give to John. Obviously, the politics of the day are not correctly stated in the Gospel.

“For John had said unto Herod, “It is not lawful for thee to have thy brothers wife.”

This is a juxtaposition (an addendum to carry on a cult myth.)

“…therefore Herodias had a quarrel against him, and would have killed him; but she could not.”

These verses may never have happened, nor are they historically correct. Even if one were to debate this on the basis of Mosaic Law, we are told the following:

“John the Baptist is not represented as an expounder of Torah. ”

It is very unlikely that the writer of the Gospel has a correct knowledge of Palestinian history, and most assuredly did no better than us at keeping up with the Idumean lineage where the Herod’s were concerned. The interpreter’s Bible, gives us much food for thought, if we truly hunger for the truth.

“Philip (vs 17) was not the brother’s name; the dance of Salome was most improbable, even in a debased court like that of the Herod’s; and Mark’s account of the motivation of Antipas’ imprisonment of the prophet is contradicted by Josephus, who relates that Herod feared a revolution, and suspected John’s growing popularity.”

Josephus explains the same problem beautifully. He notes correctly that Herod Antipas was married to the daughter of Aretas, but in Rome he stayed with Philp Herod, who was no better than his step-brother. This is the crux of the matter in Rabbinical law. He falls in love with Herodias. She leaves Herod, divorces him, and marries the Herod, who has divorced King Aretas’ daughter.

We leave this entire affair with a closing statement that seems no more than a comedy of errors, over which the Greek scriptures have made, ‘much ado about nothing’.

“…Herod Antipas was not “king” (as in vss 14,27), but tetrarch of Galilee and Perea; it was not his brother Philip’s wife whom he had taken but the wife of another brother, Herod, by whom she had a daughter Salome, born ca. A.D. 10-this Salome (not Herodias) was the wife of Philip (Josephus Antiquities XVIII.5.4.). Antipas’ first wife was the daughter of Aretas IV, the Arabian king, and he cast her off for Herodias…”

At the end of all this, the crux of the matter is reached.

“Now after John was arrested, Jesus came into Galilee… ”

“Now when he heard that John had been arrested, he withdrew into Galilee; and leaving Nazareth he went and dwelt in Capernaum by the sea… ”

Obviously, Jesus is not only dismayed by John’s arrest, he is also anxious, certainly aware of his own peril, for up to now their ministry had been basically the same and their preaching directed toward the same source. On top of this, the beliefs of the people, and Herod, made things even worse for him.

“… and he withdrew into Galilee,” but if to move further from Herod’s power, it is a withdrawal that makes little sense, as we shall soon discover.

“And King Herod heard of it; for Jesus name had become known. Some said, ‘John the baptizer has been raised from the dead; that is why these powers are at work in him.’ But others said, ‘It is Elijah,’ and others said, ‘It is a prophet like one of the prophets of old.’ But when Herod heard of it he said, ‘John, whom I beheaded, has been raised.'”

“… and in the way he asked his disciples, ‘Who do men say that I am?’ And told him, ‘John the Baptist; and others say Elijah…”

If the people believed that Jesus was John, and that belief was shared by Herod, he was in the greatest danger possible, far more so than for that which he had been preaching. But why go to Galilee?

There he was not escaping Herod’s power but rushing into the web of the Tetrarch’s greatest influence. Here, in Jesus’ home country, stood the city of Tiberius, Herod’s monument to the Emperor, Rome’s symbol of worldly authority. But, this is not the only time Jesus is shown fleeing the power of Jerusalem and Herod. After a reported conflict between the Pharisees and the Sadducees on a question of Moses’ law, he is forced to leave the area once again, and this time he flees to a much further coast.

“And Jesus went away from there and withdrew to the district of Tyre and Sidon.”

“The evangelists now represent Jesus as spending some time in Gentile territory. This is shown even more clearly in Mark than in Matthew. It is not difficult to imagine that after the controversy over the clean and unclean, he was forced to withdraw from his homeland for a time.”

“And from there he arose and went away to the region of Tyre and Sidon.”

Here, Jesus is far from the clutches of Herod. On the seacoast of the Mediterranean, he is under Roman jurisdiction. And if an argument over the law seems little reason to send him away from his home, the fear of Herod, and John’s death, may have added some urgency to his withdrawal.

Jesus had good reason to leave, for Herod was already aware of him, and believed him to be the reincarnation of John. His teachings, and the crowds he drew, had grown far greater than anything John had envisioned, and seemed far more threatening to Herod and the eye of Rome in Jerusalem.

If all of this were not enough to constantly stir Jesus’ emotions against the empire, there were other reasons. Josephus states that John had been taken to Macherus near the Red Sea, to be put into prison. Regarding Herod’s party, and John’s subsequent death, there is a question as to where John was taken and put in prison.

“Where the banquet was held is not stated: the distant border fortress of Macherus was unlikely, if the Galilean guests were to attend; more probably it was the city of Tiberias, though Josephus states that John was imprisoned and put to death at Macherus.”

There is a great contradiction here, one that is created by the learned theologians, and not the Gospels. Here, the educated of the ‘church’ contradict history, and their own written word, to preserve a cult legend that they themselves state, more than likely, never took place. More importantly, Herod removed John from the center of a city under siege, filled with those who stood loyal to John in order to avoid riot and chaos. Why take him to Galilee, an area that was the hot bed of insurrection and revolt? And especially when we already know the history of the city, Tiberius.

With the several arguments we have made against the theologians stand that John was taken to Galilee, we must also consider the geography of the matter. Macherus stands across the Red Sea from Jerusalem, less than thirty-five miles from the capitol city. Tiberius is about eighty miles from Jerusalem. Every mile a danger to any Herodian or Roman traveling with their prisoner, a very popular and important symbol to the Zionists.

The theologian speaks of, ‘Galilean guests’. The Gospel says, “…the leading men of Galilee.” They could only have been Greeks, since Herod would have been insane to invite the leading Jewish ‘seditionists’ to his birthday party. To witness a dance that even theologians say probably never happened?

It is amazing that a simple, ancient adage should pinpoint the deception of man for what it is. But here, we must again consider the consequences of John’s death.

Jesus was in perilous danger, and in all that he might have desired religiously and spiritually for the people, the dye was being cast in a world filled with immorality, intrigue, and political violence in its most hideous form.

After John’s death, Jesus’ ministry continued, and certainly with greater caution, and with constant attention to his own safety. The Gospels outline a story of suspense and intrigue, retreat, and return to familiar, dangerous territory. Challenges came from the Pharisees, Sadducees, the scribes, Herodians, and the jealousy of the high priesthood. Rome’s eyes lay on him and the enormous gatherings his presence occasioned, with growing mistrust. He is even mentioned in the reports from the Jerusalem garrison as, ‘Joshua bar Joseph, an itinerant teacher’.

Despite his concern for safety, Jesus was also angered at the death of John, and in the soliloquy that followed in the Gospel stories, he upholds John’s position in God’s plan as being even above his own. Once more we are faced with the echoes of Malachi 3:1, and the contradictions of the Gospel stories.

John stated he was not fit to bear Jesus’ sandals, but this remark, viewed in the light of Jesus statement, does not appear to be legitimate. Jesus’ response is to declare John in the most glowing terms, stating, that he is above anyone including himself. Jesus declares that John, not himself, is the prophet of God, and not only a prophet, but the incarnation of Elijah, the one who is called, The Messenger of the Covenant, as declared in Malachi.

This, after publicly proclaiming in the synagogue through the reading of, Isaiah, that this mission is his own.

“Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the great and terrible day of the Lord comes.”

Without any question, this must be an effort by the early church to make John become something to which he is ill suited. Not one of the Apostles, or their scribes, would dare to bastardize holy scripture in this manner. Malachi 3, is irrefutably in reference to one who comes preceding God Himself! It has no reference to John preparing the way for Jesus, and Jesus’ claims about John would also decry this outrage. To make matters worse, the writer of this abomination puts the same words into Jesus mouth which contradict his own statement about John.

“This special role is given to John on the basis of a revised form of Mal. 3:1 where the forerunner was God’s forerunner, not that of a Messiah.”

“What did you go out into the wilderness to behold? A reed shaken by the wind? Why then did you go out? To see a man clothed in soft raiment? Behold, those who wear soft rainment are in kings’ houses. Why then did you go out? To see a prophet? Yes, I tell you, and more than a prophet. This is he of whom it is written,” Behold, I send My messenger before thy face, who shall prepare thy way….. ”

Here Jesus, who knew the classical Hebrew, is made to speak the lines of a Greek text, that of Mark, which had not even come into existence in his time!

“Truly, I say to you, among those born of women there has risen no one greater than John the Baptist; yet he who is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he. From the days of John the Baptist until now, the kingdom of heaven has suffered violence, and men of violence take it by force. For all the prophets and the law prophesied until John; and if you are willing to accept it, he is Elijah who is to come.”

“The crowds took John to be a prophet, but he was more than a prophet. Vs. 10, which is probably a very early addition to the tradition, explains that he was, in fact, the messenger of the covenant (cf vs. 14). The quotation from Mal. 3:1 seems to be translated directly from the Hebrew. It has been Christianized by substituting ‘thy’ for ‘my’ to make it refer directly to Jesus.”

“For John came unto you in the way of righteousness and ye believed him not; but the publicans and the harlots believed him: and ye, when ye saw it, did not even repent yourselves afterward, that you might believe him.”

Now I ask you, who are we to believe?

It is time to sit back and consider the things we have been taught by man’s commandments, which we have learned by rote, and determine whether or not they are in direct conflict with God’s Word. We are sorely pressed to believe the traditions surrounding these two men, for the statement made by Jesus is about as contradictory as it could be without calling it a contrivance of man’s effort to sustain a lie.

Jesus praises John as being greater than any in God’s sight, even himself. Jesus states that John is, Elijah, that he is the Messenger of the Covenant, and if this be not enough, we may consider Luke’s improbable assertion that John is the Messiah!

The statement made about John is political, and it concerns itself with a raging against the ruling class, not just Rome and Herod, but also those who would continue with a royal house in Judea, the priest-king. And what violence has besieged the kingdom of heaven? The writers of the Interpreter’s Bible would have us believe,

“Matthew’s form of this saying may mean: “From John’s time till now, the kingdom [i.e., the Christian movement, or God’s people]…..”

But even the evangelists are assaulted by doubt, or is it guilt?

“Or the passage may mean: (b) “From John’s time until now, zealots or revolutionists have sought to seize God’s kingdom [i.e., they have tried to establish his sovereignty by forceful means]…”

Again the massive attempt to save John and Jesus’ characters as nothing more than religious figures falls to pieces, for the kingdom had indeed fallen under the assault of violence and violent men, and it had nothing to do with God’s kingdom or Christianity, but the nation of Palestine, the children Israel. This included all the history of the Jews, especially from the time of the Maccabees until, and including, John’s time.

And now John, who had declared the coming of the kingdom, had himself fallen under violence. I would suggest that with the evidence so far in hand, a skilled trial lawyer would have a difficult, if not impossible, task of defending the writers of the Gospels. Here we have an example of the cruelest of all violence, that of deception.

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Explore the ancient writings of Mesopotamia, with our newly hosted texts from Sumer and Babylon. Also added are comparative studies of Sumerian and Assyrian legend in comparison to the Old Testament - all at the new Mesopotamia section.

 

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