Thursday, May 29, 2008

the Catholic apostle 'Paul' was really Mark

copyright 2008 Stephan Huller

At the very least the reader should begin to acknowledge what we have set out to accomplish. There was a high probability that the “Akher” who stands behind “Rabbi Meir” was also this same “Mark who was also called John.” The well established tradition that Meir (aka Eleazar ben Arakh) was really a student of “John” solidifies this understanding. As such we should see that there was one historical figure behind the traditions of Meir and Marcion and he wasn’t a literal “fox”! My suspicion was that both schools went back to the last historical king of Israel, Marcus Julius Agrippa whom the neo-conservative apologists of the second century didn’t want their hearers to become familiar with.

No less a figure than Caesar was trying to break apart the original messianic tradition which united Jews, Samaritans, proselytes and pagans. So it is that just as “Akher” was accused of being “too Greek” or “too philosophical” to be a Jew in the period Marcion was attacked as being either too Jewish or in fact “a heresiarch” i.e. a founder of a philosophical sect. Indeed if my previous works proved anything it was that we can’t continue to believe in the fables established for us in the Mishnah or the Acts of the Apostles if we want to make real headway into the early history of our Judeo-Christian tradition. We instead have to smash the inherited propaganda on both sides to bits and put all the pieces back together as a united whole.

So it was that in those books we accelerated the process of do away with the Acts of the Apostles and its stupid claim regarding the existence of an apostle named “Paul.” The Marcionites were the earliest authorities on this apostle and they called him Mark! To this end we have in this present work done away with an equally silly Jewish fable regarding a person named “Elisha ben Abuyah.” If it turns out there wasn’t a Meir there certainly wasn’t an “Elisha ben Abuyah” either! His name likely takes us back to the figure of the “winged Elisha” we began our investigation. The “Akher” was undoubtedly somehow related to the “other” god Jesus.

Perhaps the best way to conclude this investigation into the inter-dependence of the “other” traditions is to emphasize once again how they both neecessarily go back to a paradigmatic “heavenly revelation.” All of this makes sense when you factor in the period in which they were writing. The old religion was now completely destroyed – so how does one continue to venerate the divinity? In all religions in all parts of the word a holy man would necessarily have a “heavenly revelations” which in turn was received by the community as the very word of God. The same thing can necessarily be associated with the Jewish “Akher” no less than the Marcionite “apostle” because they were one and the same person.

This underlying similarity between the two figures has long been noticed by religious scholars. As Gizberg notes:

The oldest and most striking reference to the views of Elisha is found in the following baraita (Ḥag. 14b; Yer. ii. 1) [speaks of him as having] entered paradise. There can be no doubt that the journey … is to be taken literally and not allegorically. This conception of the baraita is supported by the use of the phrase "entered paradise" since "entered the Garden of Eden" (= paradise) was a common expression (Derek Ereẓ Zuṭa i.; Ab. R. N. xxv.). It means that Elisha, like Paul, in a moment of ecstasy beheld the interior of heaven.

In other words it is quite easy to develop the theory the both invented Catholic figure of “Paul” and the invented rabbinic caricature of “Akher” necessarily go back to an obscured messianic “visionary” of the late first and early second centuries.
As I have said time and time again the Marcionites did not call their apostle “Paul.” His name in that community was Marcus. The understanding emerges from patching together dozens of “hints” within the writings of the Church Fathers. Yet it is interesting to note as a compliment to our efforts in previous works that Tertullian also seems to acknowledge that this figure was also identified as “another” as we hear in his Prescription Against the Heresies (which I quote in full) that:

inasmuch as our very perverse cavillers [i.e. the Marcionites] obtrude the rebuke in question for the set purpose of bringing the earlier doctrine [i.e. the Catholic faith] into suspicion, I will put in a defence, as it were … I say that we should never mind those who pass sentence on apostles! It is a happy fact that Peter is on the same level with Paul … Now, although Paul was carried away even to the third heaven, and was caught up to paradise and heard certain revelations there, yet these cannot possibly seem to have qualified him for (teaching) another doctrine, seeing that their very nature was such as to render them communicable to no human being. If, however, that unspeakable mystery did leak out, and become known to any man, and if any heresy affirms that it does itself follow the same, (then) either Paul must be charged with having betrayed the secret, or some other man must actually be shown to have been afterwards “caught up into paradise,” who had permission to speak out plainly what Paul was not allowed (even) to mutter.

Tertullian suggests what other Church Fathers have long reported – the Marcionites did not call their apostle “Paul.” Yet he infers that he was “another” or in other places he calls him “the stranger” yet another way of translating the Aramaic word akher.

If only scholars were forced to learn the various seemingly contradicting statements regarding the “Marcionites” in the Church Fathers they would realize at once the underlying similarity to the Jewish “other” tradition. As it is we treat “Judaism” as being about one thing and “Christianity” another and we never see that it was through the heresies that we get back to the original ground from which both sects developed. In other words, while Christians proudly declare that they believe in the same God as the Jews very little “Jewishness” exists in normative Christianity. The same cannot be said for Marcionitism which as I write elsewhere is utterly indistinguishable from the debe Jannai “the school of Johnny” reported in the rabbinical texts.

To this end most scholars fail to remember that it was one “John the son of Smith” of the debe Jannai who finally managed to curb the heresy of “Akher.” How was this accomplished? It was this “John” living in the late third century established the the Talmud which gave an authoritative “final interpretation” to the Mishnah. All that is left of “Akher” in the later tradition is him being portrayed ascending up to heaven to see “another God.” This mediator between Israel and God Almighty is now a completely heretical idea in Judaism. Somehow Jews aren’t supposed to talk too much about having an intermediary between themselves and their divinity while the opposite is true with Christianity.

In the Catholic Church and elsewhere Jesus is openly hailed as their mediator. The problem is his relationship with his “Father.” Are they one and the same or – as their very titles suggest – is the Son subordinate in authority to another God? You can see these religious scholars dance around this issue for the last two thousand years in the various texts which have survived from antiquity but the truth is of course that it was the sword which settled the issue. Both Judaism and Christianity ended up with something less than the truth because the Roman authorities didn’t like the idea of them celebrating them having a Lord higher than the “ruler of this world.” I wonder why?

All that we are left with is the story of their former master’s heavenly ascent and the implied revelation of “another” god. In the surviving Catholic writings of the “Paul,” the apostle is allowed to keep his revelation but through various deliberate textual corruptions he vows never to reveal its contents to anyone! This is why Tertullian comes after the Marcionites for saying that they know what the apostle saw. Only an idiot can’t see through this screen. And should be clear what their apostle received from the “other” God – the revelation of the gospel itself.
“It is my gospel!” the apostle screams out over and over again in his epistles. “It came to me by a direct revelation from God!” The Church Fathers are left scratching their heads asking why the Marcionites don’t call it the “gospel of Paul” if this were true. The answer is quite simple – they identified the apostle as being named Mark as Hippolytus infers in his account of the sect and their gospel was the original gospel of Mark.

If this testimony isn’t convincing enough consider the parallel text of the Armenian Eznik of Kolb solves the riddle left unanswered in Tertullian. Who is this “other” whom the Marcionites believed received this revelation? Eznik writes that “the apostle says that they are unutterable stirrings, the words that he heard (2 Corinthians 12:3) [and] Marcion he says “I, I heard them!” At long last we are beginning to make headway! There never was a “Paul.” There never was an Elisha. The apostle of Judaism and Christianity really was really “another.” As we shall see, his name was Marcus Julius Agrippa.

Did the Betrayal happen on Mt. Gerizim

copyright 2008 Stephan Huller

There is something very strange about the story of Justin Martyr’s conversion to “our” Christianity. It isn’t just that Justin’s only known student, Tatian, was so wildly “heretical” as to imply Justin could not have been a Catholic. Justin was a Samaritan, and there are many problems imagining a Samaritan becoming a Catholic, not least the fact that, embracing “Jesus Christ,” he would have been yielding to a Jerusalem-based faith. In the whole history of religion, there is no other attested case of a Samaritan conversion to Judaism. Indeed, talk about a tall order! Samaritans have always despised what they identify as the inherent “falseness” of the Jewish religion. Why would an educated, erudite figure like Justin be any different? To be sure, the Dosithean sect stood much closer in many respects to the Jewish tradition than its rivals. Justin was likely a Dosithean, but even a Dosithean could never have cast aside one central feature of his religion: believing that Mt. Gerizim was a truer holy place than Jerusalem.

So when we hear that Justin converted to Catholicism, we must imagine that God was working extra hard to make miracles that day. It certainly would have been no small feat for the Holy Spirit to do this “double conversion.” To believe all of this you have to accept that somewhere along the line Justin wasn’t a Samaritan any longer; that he didn’t believe in the sanctity of Mt. Gerizim any more, but that he decided to embrace Jerusalem as the true holy place of Israel (even though it isn’t mentioned anywhere in the Law of Moses). And on top of it make the “jump” that Jesus was the Christ of the Jews even though he never fulfilled any of the traditional assumptions about what a messiah or Ta’eb was supposed to look like. Yes, all of this would be a tall order – even for God.

Our research thus far suggests a very different explanation, otherwise invisible. What if Justin used a lost “super-gospel” reflecting his Samaritan roots, then passed it on to Tatian? (Tatian is usually credited with the compilation of such a “Diatesseron,” but Jerome does not list it among his works and may have known better.) What can it mean when Justin says that “almost all the Samaritans” came to accept Christianity? The reference must be to another type of Christianity with another gospel. (After all, Justin also says most Samaritans were converts to the faith of Simon Magus!) This would be the gospel identified by MacDonald in various allusions in the writings of Marqeh preserved among the Samaritans. Justin’s gospel, I suggest, was related to this text but only went to greater lengths to connect it to the “Law and the Prophets” which Mark himself declared to be dead and useless in the new age of the messiah.

Our surviving treatises of Justin must have been manipulated by a later Christian editor. It is a pattern which accompanies any ancient writer embraced and absorbed by Catholic Christianity. Now at last we can explain how all the pro-Jerusalem material got in the text of the Dialogue with Trypho. We should blame the editor. And who was this editor? Just look at the introduction: where is the "dialogue" supposed to have taken place? Ephesus. That's amazing, implying that we have yet another Palestinian Christian castaway miraculously headed out to Polycarp, the founder of Catholic Christianity.

Nor was it just Polycarp who appropriated material from Justin. There is a large scale “borrowing” of core ideas and concepts from Dialogue in Tertullian’s Against Marcion Book III and Against the Jews. Tertullian doesn’t even bother to credit Justin for any of these ideas. He has instead learned to credit the Holy Spirit who had spoken through Justin and now through Tertullian himself to transform the text in his own name. Polycarp did much the same name while keeping the text associated with Justin. He wanted to preserve the link with Justin so as to supply earlier witnesses to Catholic Christianity to help support his cause.

I believe it’s entirely possible that the Dialogue with Trypho wasn’t even a dialogue in its original form. It was rather more likely a treatise written against Rabbi Tarphon. Moreover, if we look carefully, we can use the various “strange” gospel references which appear here and elsewhere in his writings to piece together some notable differences between his “Samaritan gospel” and our surviving (and much later) Catholic canonical text. If we cut through much of the interpolated material, leaving only the core of the original text, we will see that Justin’s text confirms that Jesus and his beloved disciple were arrested together at the foot of Mt. Gerizim rather than in Jerusalem.

The first clue that something is fundamentally different about Justin’s gospel is when he sees “prophetic confirmation” of its Passion narrative – and the material isn’t just related to the Passover service. The gospel says that Jesus was arrested during the Passover. One would expect that the only Jewish holiday mentioned here or anywhere else in the section would be the Passover or the Festival of the Unleavened Bread. Of course this is exactly how Justin begins the section saying that:

The mystery, then, of the lamb which God enjoined to be sacrificed as the passover, was a type of Christ; with whose blood, in proportion to their faith in Him, they anoint their houses, i.e., themselves, who believe on Him. For that the creation which God created-to wit, Adam-was a house for the spirit which proceeded from God, you all can understand. And that this injunction was temporary, I prove thus. God does not permit the lamb of the passover to be sacrificed in any other place than where His name was [first] named.

So it is that Justin talks about the Passover but he is careful to emphasize that there is only one place where this service can occur – the place where “God’s name was [first] named.” The idea repeats itself again later in the same section. How on earth can Justin have intended “Jerusalem” by this phrase? There is absolutely no proof that Jews believed they could worship only in Jerusalem. This has become a kind of romantic myth in Judaism ever since the destruction of the Temple. In later years they may have prayed three times every day facing toward Jerusalem. They may have prayed after every meal that God will "rebuild Jerusalem speedily in our days." They may have recited the words “next year in Jerusalem” at the end of the Passover Seder and at the end of the Yom Kippur fast and broken a glass at their weddings to commemorate the destruction of the Temple while reciting prayers in the hopes of hearing the sound of joyous nuptials in Jerusalem's streets. But all that doesn’t erase one small problem. Philo attests that the Jews of Alexandria carried out all of these same services outside of Jerusalem. Many archaeologists and scholars have thus challenged the “only in Jerusalem” model promoted by Zionists. Indeed, Justin would have certainly known that Jerusalem doesn’t appear as a place of significance in the Law of Moses – it isn’t even mentioned once by name.

The only place Justin the Samaritan could have been thinking Jesus having been “enjoined to be sacrificed” is the Samaritan altar near Mt. Gerizim. Remember he speaks in the present tense, implying that “the only place” is still “the only place.” Every scholar acknowledges that Jewish Passover services had ceased at Jerusalem long before the Catholics suppose Justin to have been writing. The Samaritans will be the first to tell you that they have continuously maintained their Passover offering at Gerizim since the beginning of Israel. Indeed pay careful attention to the words of Justin and you will see that he understands that these ceremonies were continuing in his day. He can only intend the Samaritan altar.

I needn’t cite all the references in the Law of Moses to the God of Israel being named at or near Gerizim. When Abraham appears at “the house of God” (i.e., the Samaritan altar according to their reading of the passage), it says that Abraham “went where he had first built an altar. There Abram called on the name of the LORD” (Gen. 13:4). As Barton notes,
the Samaritans have twice seven holy names for it including – 1. the Ancient Mountain. 2. Beth-El = The House of the Almighty. 3. Beth-Elohim = The House of Angels. 4. The Gate of Heaven (Gen. xxviii. 17) . 5. Luzah = "To God is this place" (Gen. xxviii. 19). 6. Sanctuary. 7. The Mount of Blessing. 8. Beth-YHWH (Ex. xxiii. 19). 9. The Beautiful Mountain (Deut. iii. 25). 10. The Chosen Place. 11. The Highest in the World. 12. The First of Mountains. 13. God is seen (Gen. xxii. 14). 14. The Mountain of the Inheritance of the Shekinah. And with it they connect the sacrifice of Isaac, the erection of the Altar and the Law, and almost every sacred rite from the beginning of Hebrew history to the present time. Jerusalem is to them a modern innovation, and even Shiloh a schismatic and dishonest shrine. As for Bethel, Gerizim is Bethel, the place of Jacob's vision, and the true House of God.

Thus we may be absolutely certain that in the original, pre-Catholicized version of the writings of Justin envisioned Christ as betrayed on the Samaritan mountain rather than the otherwise unheard of “Mount of Olives.” We can also avoid perpetuating Justin the Samaritan’s logically impossible "double conversion" to "Jerusalem-based faith" and "Christianity.” All that happened was that Polycarp corrupted one of the historical Justus’ original “commentaries on Scripture” directed against Rabbi Tarphon.

And, for some reason, Justin doesn’t just connect Jesus’ crucifixion with the sacrifice of the lamb on the Passover but also with the goat offering during the Day of Atonement. Some might ask why he would do this, and the answer is to be found only in Samaritanism. For in the Samaritan religion to this day the sacrifice of Isaac (the Akedah), an event long connected by Christians with Jesus’ crucifixion, was firmly placed not only on Gerizim but on the Passover. There may be isolated strands of thought in Judaism to this effect, but it never approached the pedestal of orthodoxy which it occupies in Samaritanism.

Why does all of this matter? At the core of the Yom Kippur offering, there are two goats, one of which is set free while the other sacrificed. In the Akedah narrative, Abraham is allowed to spare his son when he discovers a ram caught in the bushes. Justin uses these metaphors to explain his gospel narrative, saying (as we now read in our present text) with regards to the former ritual that:

the two goats which were ordered to be offered during the fast, of which one was sent away as the scape [goat], and the other sacrificed, were similarly declarative of the two appearances of Christ: the first, in which the elders of your people, and the priests, having laid hands on Him and put Him to death, sent Him away as the scape [goat]; and His second appearance ... And further, you are aware that the offering of the two goats, which were enjoined to be sacrificed at the fast, was not permitted to take place similarly anywhere else

So now we see clearly that, not only must Justin’s gospel have reflected an “enjoining to be an offering” (i.e. the arrest narrative) on Gerizim, but moreover it was clearly a “double offering”-- someone else was arrested alongside Jesus and later set free.

The two men arrested side by side must have been offered side by side in the original gospel narrative. They must be connected with the two figures in our gospel called the "Son of the Father" (Barabbas) and Jesus. Of these, one is set free and the other sacrificed. So it is for Justin, and, if we look carefully, so too for the author of the very early Epistle of Barnabas who writes that:
The Lord gave such a commandment since he was destined to offer the vessel of the spirit as a sacrifice for our sins, so that the "type" which is based on Isaac's having been offered up on the altar [Gen. 22:9] also might be fulfilled. What, then, does he say in the prophet?
And they shall eat from the goat which is offered up during the Fast for all sins [cf. Lev. 16:9, 27]

pay attention more diligently --

and the priests alone shall all eat the entrails unwashed, with vinegar.

For what reason?

Since I am destined to offer my flesh [5:1] for the sins of my new people, you (priests) are about to drink gall mixed with vinegar -- you alone will eat while the people fast and smite themselves on sackcloth and ashes.

This is to demonstrate that he must suffer at their hands [5:11 ff.; 12:5].
Pay attention to what he commanded:
Take two goats which are handsome and alike, and present them; and let the priest take one for a burnt offering for sins [Lev. 16:7, 9].

But what do they do with the other?

Accursed, he says, is the other [see Lev. 16:8].
Pay attention to how the type of Jesus is made clear! … What, then, does it mean -- pay attention -- that the one is placed on the altar [7:6] and the other is accursed [7:7a], and that the accursed one is crowned? [7:8a] Because they will see him then, on that day, wearing the scarlet robe around his flesh [5:1], and they will say:
Surely this was the one who then said he was God's Son! [See Mark 15:39b, parr.]

Now how is this like that situation? For this reason the goats were alike and handsome [7:6], equal, so that when they see it coming then [7:8b, 9b], they will be amazed at the similarity of the goat… In such a way, he says, those who desire to see me and to take hold of my kingdom [8:5] ought to take me through affliction and suffering.

My friends, it doesn’t get more obvious than this. The point then is that Justin’s argument wasn’t an “invention” on his part or the product of an “overactive imagination.” It was part of a tradition which undoubtedly went back to the very original author(s) of the gospel.

Indeed the fragments of other texts of Justin mention the same notion:
By the two birds [Lev. xiv. 49-53] Christ is denoted, both dead as man, and living as God. He is likened to a bird, because He is understood and declared to be from above, and from heaven. And the living bird, having been dipped in the blood of the dead one, was afterwards let go. For the living and divine Word was in the crucified and dead temple [of the body], as being a partaker of the passion, and yet impossible to God.
By that which took place in the running water, in which the wood and the hyssop and the scarlet were dipped, is set forth the bloody passion of Christ on the cross for the salvation of those who are sprinkled with the Spirit, and the water, and the blood … For this reason, consequently, he ordered that the scarlet should be dipped at the same time in the water, thus predicting that the flesh should no longer possess its natural [evil] properties. For this reason, also, were there the two birds, the one being sacrificed in the water, and the other dipped both in the blood and in the water and then sent away, just as is narrated also respecting the goats.
The goat that was sent away presented a type of Him who taketh away the sins of men. But the two contained a representation of the one economy of God incarnate. For He was wounded for our transgressions, and He bare the sins of many, and He was delivered for our iniquities.
The “double offering” metaphor means that the gospel wasn’t just about Jesus’ offering. It must also have treated of the “one that got away.” There was only one person who this could be pointing to: the “little lad” of Mark 14:52. The Coptic tradition is steadfast that this “little one” was Mark himself. However, the specific wording of these surviving texts denies the original formula which must have been known to Justin and Barnabas (who may well have been the same person, i.e., Justus bar Sabas). The surviving Diatesseron, for instance, has a “double flight” when the arresting party arrives. First, the disciples: “And that was, that the scriptures of the prophets might be fulfilled. Then the disciples all left him, and fled.” Then strangely the little lad, too “And the footsoldiers and the officers and the soldiers of the Jews seized Jesus, and came. And a certain young man followed him, and he was wrapped in a towel, naked: and they seized him; so he left the towel, and fled naked. Then they took Jesus, and bound him, and brought him to Annas.” Our gospels get around this by identifying Mark as the “other” disciple who follows with Peter who was known to the high priest.

Wasn’t the “little lad” one of the disciples – even the beloved disciple? Of course he was. The answer is that the original Samaritan gospel must have had the arrest and betrayal occurring at Gerizim, followed by Jesus and “little Mark” being taken away to Jerusalem in order to be present as “double offerings.” The distance here is only 59 Km. or 37 Miles – hardly an insurmountable journey to undertake after an evening encounter. There is more than enough time left to interrogate Jesus and carry out the trial with a surprisingly quick expiration on the cross.
That the arrest occurred in Samaria is clear in yet another scriptural “proof” brought forward by Justus in relation to the Passion, this time Isaiah chapter eight.

Isaiah foretold how [the Passion] would happen thus: `And the Lord spoke again to Ahaz, saying, Ask for thyself a sign from the Lord thy God, in the depth, or in the height. And Ahaz said, I will not ask, neither will I tempt the Lord. And Isaiah said, Hear then, O house of David; Is it a small thing for you to contend with men, and how do you contend with the Lord? Therefore the Lord Himself will give you a sign. Behold, the virgin shall conceive, and shall bear a son, and his name shall be called Immanuel. Butter and honey shall he eat, before he knows or prefers the evil, and chooses out the good; for before the child knows good or ill, he disobeys evil by choosing out the good. For before the child knows how to call father or mother, he shall receive the power of Damascus and the spoil of Samaria in presence of the king of Assyria. And the land shall be taken which thou shalt with difficulty endure in consequence from the face of the two kings. But God shall bring on thee, and on thy people, and on the house of thy father, days which have not yet come upon thee since the day in which Ephraim took away from Judah the king of Assyria.' [The editors note that the last sentence can be translated a number of different ways including "in which He took away from Judah Ephraim, even the king of Assyria”]

This is not the normal rendering of the beginning of Isaiah chapter 8. I have always felt that, whenever we come across a variant scripture, we are likely standing on “holy ground.” We are witnessing a part of the core of text of the early Church Father still uncorrupted by the hands of later editors.

Justin uses the section to confirm not only that the original “enjoining to be offered” occurred at Samaria, but that it was a double offering in the manner of the two goats of the Yom Kippur service. He makes it clear that originally the gospel had one of the two people sacrificed while the other – the "scape goat" - lived. Naturally, there is much interpolation in what follows, but the original explanation of this passage appears some twenty seven chapters later where Justin goes out of his way to deny Jewish claims that the prophecy applies to Hezekiah. No, it must, he says, refer to someone in more recent history:

[S]how me yourselves first of all how it is said of Hezekiah, that before he knew how to call father or mother, he received the power of Damascus and the spoils of Samaria in the presence of the king of Assyria. For it will not be conceded to you, as you wish to explain it, that Hezekiah waged war with the inhabitants of Damascus and Samaria in presence of the king of Assyria. `For before the child knows how to call father or mother, 'the prophetic word said, `He shall take the power of Damascus and spoils of Samaria in presence of the king of Assyria.' For if the Spirit of prophecy had not made the statement with an addition, `Before the child knows how to call father or mother, he shall take the power of Damascus and spoils of Samaria, 'but had only said, `And shall bear a son, and he shall take the power of Damascus and spoils of Samaria, 'then you might say that God foretold that he would take these things, since He fore-knew it. But now the prophecy has stated it with this addition: `Before the child knows how to call father or mother, he shall take the power of Damascus and spoils of Samaria.' And you cannot prove that such a thing ever happened to any one among the Jews.

Of course the editors have done their best to obscure the obvious connection between the “double offering” and this section about two characters (one identified as the “spoils of Samaria” the other “the power of Damascus”) who are presented before Herod as part of the original (Samaritan) gospel narrative.

There is a lot of material to cover here, but at least let us keep in mind how the “Christ” in the gospel narrative is a little boy. This happens over and over in the surviving text with only a superficial attempt to relate it back to Jesus. Justin's point is that Hezekiah can't be the one prophesied because the oracle can apply only to a little boy. The Catholic editor makes it appear as if Justin means that the prophecy refers to the (Matthean) narrative’s opening lines about Jesus surviving the machinations of Herod the Great.

But we are able to prove that it happened in the case of our Christ. For at the time of His birth, Magi who came from Arabia worshipped Him, coming first to Herod, who then was sovereign in your land, and whom the Scripture calls king of Assyria on account of his ungodly and sinful character ... [and] that expression of Isaiah `He shall take the power of Damascus and spoils of Samaria, 'foretold that the power of the evil demon that dwelt in Damascus should be overcome by Christ as soon as He was born; and this is proved to have happened.

But this simply cannot be the original meaning of the passage. The real Justin (or Justus) applied the passage as if the “little one” was present at the Passion and represented the scapegoat, while Jesus was sacrificed for an atonement of the people, and this little one fled with Jesus crimson robe. It is equally apparent that the two metaphors of the “power of Damascus” and the “spoils of Samaria” are connected with these two figures. But which is which? Our best bet to find the explanation of the two figures will be found in a variety of later sources clearly indebted to Justin’s original writings. I will start with the latest – Eusebius – and work backward because it is only in Eusebius’ writings that we crack the code. The “spoils of Samaria” represents the “king of the Jewish people in the city of Palestine called Samaria, which we call Sebaste,” that is, “Herod and his successors [who lived] in the time of our Saviour.” Similarly, a Marcionite interpretation of the passage would make clear that Jesus must have been the “power of Damascus.”

More significant by far is the manner in which Justin's original interpretation of the spoils of Samaria has been developed and preserved in both Tertullian's Against the Jews and the third book of Against Marcion. There can be no doubt of this, as both show a number of signs of borrowing from Justin. The first in Against the Jews appears immediately after the setting of the Passover on "the eighth day before the calends of April, on the first day of unleavened bread, on which they slew the lamb at even, just as had been enjoined by Moses." This means that it was likely Justin who was the source (however misunderstood) of that tradition. Immediately after this reference (so once again confirming the original connection with the Passion) Tertullian/Justin speaks in a manner already familiar to the reader:

God Himself will give you a sign; Behold, the virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and ye shall call his name Emmanuel" (which is, interpreted, "God with us" ): "butter and honey shall he eat; " : "since, ere the child learn to call father or mother, he shall receive the power of Damascus and the spoils of Samaria, in opposition to the king of the Assyrians."

There is a continuing recycling of ideas from Justin throughout. This last citation is followed by a familiar line of argument including the charge that the Jews changed the text from "virgin" to "young woman.” Yet, more importantly, we see also a specific reference that the Jews deny that the words of Isaiah apply to the Passion. Some contemporary Jewish writers go so far as to deny the messianic character of the whole section of Isaiah 8. But this point of view is easily demolished when we apply here the same kabalistic methodology that Jews typically use to establish other passages as having a secret meaning. For the section begins with Isaiah speaking of a little boy being born to a prophetess and being named "Maher-shalal-hash-baz." The fact that many Jews no longer use the passage to support their own messianic ideas only demonstrates that it has fallen out of fashion. Nevertheless, when you apply the common method for treating words and passages as acrostics, it is impossible to get around the fact that the first three words of the name Maher-Shalal-Hash-baz (the longest or second longest name in the Bible) spells out the word mashak – literally “to anoint” – and the root of the very word messiah. Anyone who would debunk this messianic interpretation ends up negating withal many of the lines of proof used in other passages. So why did it likely fall out of fashion? Only a few lines later, the key word shalal appears in conjunction with Samaria – i.e. the word we have been tracking all along – the “spoils of Samaria.” In other words, a Samaritan like Justin must have been quite enamored of the fact that Isaiah (himself an ancient Samaritan) spoke of “the one to come” – the messiah as the “shalal of Samaria.” We have already seen that Eusebius connects the word with the last Herodian king: Marcus Agrippa.
In his Against the Jews Tertullian follows Justin’s lead in identifying one of the two “goats” as a little boy:
the first step is to look at the demonstration of His age, to see whether the age there indicated can possibly exhibit the Christ as already a man ... Forsooth, by His babyish cry the infant would summon men to arms, and would give the signal of war not with clarion, but with rattle, and point out the foe, not from His charger's back or from a rampart, but from the back or neck of His suckler and nurse, and thus subdue Damascus and Samaria in place of the breast ... And the setting before us, then, of a virgin-mother is deservedly believed to be a sign … [b]ut that he is to receives "the power of Damascus and the spoils of Samaria in opposition to the king of the Assyrians," this is a wondrous sign. Keep to the limit of (the infant's) age, and inquire into the sense of the prediction; nay, rather, repay to truth what you are unwilling to credit her with, and the prophecy becomes intelligible by the relation of its fulfilment.

Eusebius and others peg the “king of Assyria” as either Rome (i.e., Pilate) or Herod Antipas. Justin only says the latter. Here in the text much closer to the original material from Justin (both texts are directed “against the Jews”) Tertullian repeats over and over how it was that the child who symbolized the “spoils of Samaria” would be a blood-thirsty messiah unlike Jesus:

Moreover, this our interpretation will be supported while (we find that) elsewhere as well the Scriptures designate Christ a warrior, as we gather from the names of certain weapons, and words of that kind. But by a comparison of the remaining senses the Jews shall be convicted. "Gird thee," says David, "the sword upon the thigh" .. Thus mighty in war and weapon-bearing is Christ; thus will He "receive the spoils," not of "Samaria" alone, but of all nations as well. Acknowledge that His "spoils" are figurative whose weapons you have learnt to be allegorical.

Now we see why the texts are anti-Jewish treatises – Tarphon and his cohorts must have denied the particular “child messiah” doctrine held up by the dominant orthodoxy of the period. Segal points out the existence of just such a faith in a “young messiah” in his study of material related to the mekilta or halakic midrash to Exodus. This tradition is alternately described as “heretical Christian,” “Sadducean,” “Samaritan” or “Epicurean” (because they “deny” God). As I point out elsewhere there are several points of contact between this tradition and the Marcionites especially their interest in Exodus 15:3. Whatever the case, it is very telling that Tertullian turns around this original material from Justin (which essentially agrees with the Marcionite interpretation) in a parallel passage in Against Marcion Book III and attacks these claims.

you [Marcion] say that Isaiah's Christ will have to be called Emmanuel then, that He takes the riches of Damascus and the spoils of Samaria against the king of Assyria. But yet He who is come [i.e. Jesus] was neither born under such a name, nor ever engaged in any warlike enterprise ...You are equally led away by the sound of names, when you so understand the riches of Damascus, and the spoils of Samaria, and the king of Assyria, as if they portended that the Creator's Christ was a warrior

Tertullian then draws attention to the material we just saw in Against the Jews and challenges Marcion to explain how Christ could be a warrior and a little boy “[y]ou should first examine the point of age, whether it can be taken to represent Christ as even yet a man ... He might be about to call to arms by His cry as an infant ... Now, since nature ... nowhere grants to man to learn warfare before life, to pillage the wealth of a Damascus before he knows his father and mother's name ...” Talk about being inconsistent! The real mystery now isn’t whether Justin and the Marcionites thought that the gospel was about a “little messiah.” (The name “Christian” has always meant this, but no one in two thousand years seemed interested in figuring out why.) The really puzzling thing is how Tertullian can feel so comfortable attacking Marcionites and Jews with the same material from Justin. Doesn’t what follows in Against Marcion sound all too familiar now?

Then, again, Jewish cavillers, in order to disconcert us, boldly pretend that Scripture does not hold that a virgin, but only a young woman, is to conceive and bring forth ... A virgin mother is justly deemed to be proposed by God as a sign, but a warlike infant has no like claim to the distinction ... nor is His "refusing the evil; "for this, too, is only a characteristic of infancy. But His destined capture of the riches of Damascus and the spoil of Samaria before the king of Assyria is no doubt a wonderful sign ... Moreover, by the phrase "before or against the king of Assyria," understand "against Herod" …

Tertullian is reusing material likely passed on to him by Irenaeus from Justin’s original treatise against Tarphon and the Jewish underground. Certain things remain consistent in the analysis: the “power of Damascus” is Jesus, “the “spoils of Samaria” is the little Christ, “the king of Assyria” is Herod but the basic material can be manipulated this way or that to suit whatever argument Tertullian wants at any given time.

Look at what follows where now “against Marcion” the Latin Church Fathers writes that:

This interpretation of ours will derive confirmation, when, on your supposing that Christ is in any passage called a warrior, from the mention of certain arms and expressions of that sort, you weigh well the analogy of their other meanings, and draw your conclusions accordingly. "Gird on Thy sword," says David, "upon Thy thigh" ... He conquered death by His resurrection ... Thus is the Creator's Christ mighty in war, and a bearer of arms; thus also does He now take the spoils, not of Samaria alone, but of all nations. Acknowledge, then, that His spoils are figurative, since you have learned that His arms are allegorical. Since, therefore, both the Lord speaks and His apostle writes such things in a figurative style, we are not rash in using His interpretations, the records of which even our adversaries admit; and thus in so far will it be Isaiah's Christ who has come, in as far as He was not a warrior, because it is not of such a character that He is described by Isaiah.

Clearly then Tertullian seems to think that this little boy took something from Samaria which became his “plunder” or “loot.” Since I have developed the understanding that the Passion and the attack on the Samaritan messiah at the end of Pilate’s reign were one and the same historical event, it is important to note how the latter figure also claims to have “found the vessels” expected of the Samaritan messiah. In Josephus’ account we read that this figure wanted them to:

go in a body with him to Mount Gerizim, which in their belief is the most sacred of mountains. He assured them that on their arrival he would show them the sacred vessels which were buried there, where Moses had deposited them. His hearers, viewing this tale as plausible, appeared in arms … and, as they planned to climb the mountain in a great multitude, they welcomed to their ranks the new arrivals who kept coming. But before they could ascend, Pilate blocked their projected route up the mountain with a detachment of cavalry and heavily armed infantry, who in an encounter with the first comers in the village slew some in a pitched battle and put the others to flight.

So how does one explain the manner in which the followers of the messiah ca. 37 CE. were cut off from ascending the mountain? The easiest answer is to imagine that Pilate surprised them by coming over and down Gerizim. In the course of Justin’s discussion in Dialogue we find that he also mentions the idea that Jesus and the disciples were attacked from above on the mountain saying:

For on that night when some of your nation, who had been sent by the Pharisees and Scribes according to their instruction [] came upon Him from the Mount [] ... when He was led before your teachers.

Pilate and the Jews came over the mountain and fell upon the disciples on the valley below. Notice the manner in which Justin identifies the attacking party of Jews as “your teachers” belonging to "your nation" as he addresses his Jewish opponent. Clearly he was very much still a Samaritan. Why would Justin emphasize this detail which nowhere appears in our texts? Most scholars already recognize that he used a different gospel. Now we are beginning to see that it was a Samaritan gospel.

Justin explicitly confirms that the betrayal occurred “on the mountain of the Lord” (albeit now through the prophecy of Micah, which is problematic). Nevertheless, there can be no doubt whatsoever that the standard Jewish betrayal narrative in the gospels is inconsistent with the identification of the “mount of the Lord” with the “Mount of Olives” or the anonymous mountain in John and the Diatesseron. There is no known gospel narrative where Jesus and his disciples were betrayed on “Mount Zion,” the only Jewish mountain which could possibly be construed to be a “mountain of the Lord.”

I should also mention that in Aramaic at least the word shalal essentially means “the things carried off as plunder.” Thus it would be natural for Justin to have thought these words of Isaiah represented a prophetic acknowledgement of the central concept in his gospel where the messiah was led off as a captive during the arrest narrative. However, it is important to emphasize again that two people were led off – the sacrificed one and the one who was freed. According to Justin’s text Jesus was the former character; I happen to believe Mark was the other.

Irenaeus, commenting on the passage, seems to know something of Justin's original interpretation. He says that his contemporaries:

prostrated themselves to the eternal King, departed by another way, not now returning by the way of the Assyrians. “For before the child shall have knowledge to cry, Father or mother, He shall receive the power of Damascus, and the spoils of Samaria, against the king of the Assyrians" … For this cause, too, He suddenly removed those children belonging to the house of David, whose happy lot it was to have been born at that time, that He might send them on before into His kingdom

Irenaeus seems to be aware of Justin’s identification of a young Marcus Agrippa as the “spoils of Samaria.” It is hard, I think, to get around the fact that the Christ’s connection with the northern province wasn’t accidental. It was deliberately arranged that way because the original gospel said so.

Christ and Pilate's downfall

copyright 2008 Stephan Huller

It is stunning enough that the Christian texts of Josephus try to avoid the effects of Caligula’s rise to power on Palestinian life. Not only does the text avoid the obvious “triumph” for Christ – viz. that the “Herod” who was victimizing our hero from the beginning of the text was finally brought to justice – it is utterly amazing that Pilate, the man who shamefully allowed “Jesus” and “Christ” to be tried and punished also avoids divine retribution.

To this end what we have to do to bring to a close the whole issue of whether or not early Christian could have connected Josephus’ report of Pilate’s summoning to Rome with his mistreatment of “Christ” during the passion is to look at the earliest surviving reports from that tradition. The facts are that it was widely acknowledged in late antiquity that Pilate’s summoning to Rome was not only connected with Christianity the details necessarily challenged the existing understanding.

Why else would the anti-Christian Emperor Maximian have taken what must have been Pilate’s original report and sent them “to all the provinces under him, with written commands that they should be posted publicly in every place and that the schoolmasters should give them to their scholars instead of their customary lessons to be studied and learned by heart (Eusebius, op. cit., IX, v)? The anwer here must be that this one document above all other texts, arguments and refutations proved once and for all that the canonical gospels of the Catholic Church were completely unhistorical. How could one document have done this? We get that understanding from the contemporary Catholic forgeries commissioned in this and subsequent ages to counter its influence.

It is utterly incredible to see the manner in which the Catholic responses attempt to get around the simple fact that the Emperor Pilate faced when he arrived at Rome was Caligula. Josephus couldn’t be more specific when he says that Pilate left Palestine while Tiberius was alive and that by the time he arrived in Rome that Emperor was dead. So it is amazingly important that each manufactured “reaction” to Pilate’s report goes out of its way to deny which Caesar appeared next. In that “counter-tradition” we see that:

(a) The so-called Giving Up of Pilate has a strange formula where the Emperor is actually unnamed and entirely sympathetic to Christianity. He wants to punish the Jews for killing Christ (Gaius it might be argued did much the same thing for perhaps different reasons).

(b) The so-called Report of Pilate before Claudius makes Claudius the Emperor (which is ridiculous) while the longer Greek form identifies the Caesar as Tiberius (which is utterly impossible. It also introduces Agrippa’s sister Berenice (although unnamed) as a player in the drama and her relation to the city of Paneas (which will figure later in our discussion).

(c) The so-called Death of Pilate also has Tiberius as the Emperor and Berenice as the holder of the sacred sudar.

(d) The so-called Letter of Herod finds Caligula (Gaius) slipped into the accused Herod Agrippa’s letter in a strange way. He writes “Now, my lords, if this is not satisfactory, I would ask my accuser, Caius, to write any of the learned Jews, and learn if my statement is not correct. As to Agrippa's accusing me of having arms for seventy thousand soldiers, it is correct; but they were left me by my father, Herod the Great."

(e) The so-called Letter of Pilate again identifies Tiberius as the Caesar but the fact that the speech is identified as occuring on March 28th is interesting (the date Caligula accepted the crown in Rome).

(f) In the Avenging of the Saviour Tiberius is the Caesar, Berenice is present but so is Titus. Pilate is now a prisoner owing to his mistreatment of “Christ.”

(g) The Acts of the Holy Apostles Peter and Paul identify Claudius as the Emperor
The point again is that something has to account for these reactionary treatises to deny the obvious – viz. Pilate made his original report to Gaius. The only answer I can come up with is that Maximian’s reproduction of the original report of Pilate proved that (a) the gospels lied about the locale of the arrest (i.e. Samaria) and (b) that Marcus Agrippa was the “Christ” abused by Pilate and Tiberius and the basis for the accusation against Pilate.

It is interesting that the Christian Church Father Justin refers positively to Pilate's original which once again necessarily must have referenced Christianity. He writes at one point of the manner in which they prove the truth of his gospel saying:
the words, "They pierced my hands and my feet," are a description of the nails that were fixed in His hands and His feet on the cross; and after He was crucified, those who crucified Him cast lots for His garments, and divided them among themselves; and that these things were so, you may learn from the "Acts" which were recorded under Pontius Pilate.

The same idea comes again when he alludes to the fact that Jesus “performed these miracles you may easily be satisfied from the "Acts" of Pontius Pilate."
The fact that Justin should be an early witness to the truthfulness of the very Acts of Pilate likely cited by Maximin centuries later might be puzzling to some. Why should a Christian from one age embrace the very document shunned by others generations later? Then all at once the answer comes – Justin was at once a Samaritan Christian who according to Boismard, building on work by Plooij, Peters, and others, published the identification of Justin’s text with an earlier lost Diatessaron text connected to the Gospel of the Hebrews. Boismard has shown that in addition to the Diatessaron, a text similar to the one used by Justin was used in both Syriac-speaking and Latin-speaking areas. This Gospel of the Hebrews text (notice that it is never described as a Gospel of the Jews or some such term) undoubtedly embraced a Samaritan basis for the original Passion narrative.
I needn’t get into the fact that Justin himself says that “all of Samaria” has embraced Christianity at this time. It is enough to say that this would necessarily have been impossible if the gospel at the basis of this tradition emphasized a Jerusalem-based revelation as our canonical texts now do. The idea that “every Samaritan” would not only have embraced Jesus as their Lord but accepted much of the Judaizing present in our canon would require an even greater miracle than is normally attributed to the eventual conversion of “all the nations.”

Nevertheless despite these corruptions we need only realize that the earliest of the later “Catholic responses” to the open promulgation of the Acts of Pilate by Maximin not only doesn’t completely erase Caligula’s presence as Emperor – it necessarily blends together Josephus’ report of Pilate’s assault on the Samaritans with the arrest of Jesus. When we look to the Giving Up of Pontius Pilate for instance it is almost impossible to see how matters fit perfectly with our reconstruction of events described in Josephus.

While for instance Josephus writes that “when this tumult was appeased, the Samaritan senate sent an embassy to Vitellius” Giving Up notes that “the writings having come to the city of the Romans, and having been read to the Caesar … all were astounded, because through the wickedness of Pilate … and the Caesar, filled with rage, sent soldiers, and ordered them to bring Pilate a prisoner.” Despite some obvious differences it is impossible to see that Pilate ends up in the exact same position – standing before Caligula with the charge of attacking the leader of a messianic movement. Of course the major difference here is that according to the standard model Pilate’s attack against “Christ” occurred at least four years before the governor’s summons to Rome. We have all seen how this difficulty immediately disappears.

Giving Up continues to fill in missing gaps in our information saying that when Pilate “was brought to the city of the Romans, the Caesar, hearing that Pilate had arrived … ordered Pilate to stand forward. And the Caesar says to him: Why hast thou, O most impious, dared to do such things … [b]y daring to do an evil deed, thou hast destroyed the whole world.” Pilate attempts to brush off the accusation accusing Herod and the Jews of forcing him into attacking “Christ” Caesar initially doesn’t accept his argument and “ordered Pilate to be kept in security” while he learned more about Christ. Eventually in a manner conistent with Caligula he issues a decree against the Jewish nation and “seized all the nation of the Jews; and those that were left in Judaea he scattered among the nations, and sold for slaves.” Pilate is beheaded for his crimes.

In the Death of Pilate who Condemned Jesus we see the very same pattern – viz. supporting the notion that Pilate’s attack against the Samaritans was one and the same as the assault mentioned in the gospel narrative. Only here we see the beginning of the integration of this information into the greater tradition of Agrippa’s sister as the holder of the sudar (see below). Now Tiberius is sick and in need of healing and looks to Jesus to act as his physician. When he finds out that Pilate has killed him he is enraged and seeks to recall him as a means of accusing him.

The simple fact of course was that the historical Emperor Tiberius was in fact very sick at the time of Pilate’s assault. As such there is a small grain of truth here. We read further in the Death of Pilate that “Pilate, hearing this, was very much afraid, knowing that through envy he had caused Him to be put to death.” He attempts to justify his actions by accusing Christ of being “a malefactor, and a man who drew to himself all the people; so a council of the wise men of the city was held, and I caused him to be crucified.”

Of course it is Berenice’s testimony to the governor of Syria which manages to sway the Emperor’s decision. We read that “she began to weep, saying: Ah me! my lord, my God and my Lord, whom Pilate for envy delivered, condemned, and ordered to be crucified.” Then we read that governor of Syria “came with Veronica to Rome, and said to Tiberius the emperor: Jesus, whom thou hast been longing for, Pilate and the Jews have delivered to an unjust death, and have through envy affixed to the gibbet of the cross.”

The text continues by saying that in the end “Pontius Pilate by the command of Caesar, is taken and brought through to Rome. Caesar hearing that Pilate had arrived at Rome, was filled with exceeding fury against him, and caused him to be brought to him.” Despite being initially saved by Jesus the emperor eventually is portrayed as “swearing and declaring that [Pilate] was the son of death, and that it was infamous that he should live upon the earth” and “ordered him to be kept in prison, until he should deliberate in a council of the wise men what ought to be done with him. And a few days after, sentence was therefore passed upon Pilate, that he should be condemned to the most disgraceful death. Pilate, hearing this, killed himself with his own knife, and by such a death ended his life.”

The same basic scenario occurs in the Avenging of the Savior save for the fact that Agrippa’s sister Berenice is eventually connected with her lover Titus who destroyed the Jewish religion as revenge for their treatment of “Christ.” Here we are told that as a result of his arrest and punishment of Jesus the Roman officials “seized Pilate, and sent him to prison [in Damascus]… [and t]hen they forthwith sent their messengers to Tiberius, the emperor of the city of Rome.” When the governor of Syria arrives he asks “Thou, Pilate, impious and cruel, why hast thou slain the Son of God?” Eventually we hear that the governor of Syria “seized Pilate to take him to a seaport” along with Berenice and a portrait of the Lord.

In the end my only point here is to emphasize that the “icing on the cake” as it were with my reconstruction of the historical basis to the gospel is that there is a pre-existent Christian tradition regarding Pilate being sent to Rome for crimes against “their Christ.” Suddenly we are right there staring the very idea of Josephus account of a historical assault against a Samaritan messiah and the Passion of Jesus himself identified as a Samaritan as one and the same event. What could have caused this understanding to disappear and darkness and confusion reign in its place? Can you all say – “Imperial conspiracy?”…