The third stage of the narrative, taking the history from 45 to 64 AD, is derived from the pesher of Acts 13:13 to 28:31, from the Dead Sea Scrolls, Apocrypha, and sources on Roman history. The Word-for-Word pesher of Acts which is the primary source will be supplied when the narrative is complete.
The last stage of the life of Jesus, from 45 to 64 AD, saw the conclusion of all that he had stood for, the establishment of a universal religion arising out of Judaism. It spoke the language of Greco-Roman culture, leaving behind the assumption of the superiority of Jews to Gentiles.
In personal terms, it was a time of continuing conflict, characteristic of a political institution dealing with great and growing power. Jesus had to endure loss of family, scurrilous accusations, damage by well-meaning associates. Each of the actions he took in these crises illustrated a personal integrity. The book in which he himself participated, the Acts of the Apostles, gives through its pesher both sides of the story, in such a way as to give the facts of the history and to challlenge any undue glorification of himselfThe major threads of the history from 45 AD are:
The turning point in the personal life of Jesus was the time when, after the birth of their third child, he was given the message from Mary Magdalene that she wanted a divorce. Paul, the close friend and associate of Jesus, a former Pharisee who permitted divorce, negotiated the legal proceedings over two years, and the marriage was at an end by 46 AD.
The legal proceedings began in the year when the Christian church as a separate organization was formally founded, in 44 AD. That event was directly relevant to the divorce. Years later, when Paul was writing 1 Corinthians, he included in his section on marriage a ruling about divorce for Christians. He began it with directions that were not from himself but the Lord - a wording that is easily read as meaning that Jesus was alive and giving specific rulings on such matters. The Lord's directions were:
"The wife should not separate from her husband. But if she does, let her remain single or else be reconciled to her husband. The husband should not divorce his wife."
Paul then went on with his own additions, introducing them with "to the rest I say, not the Lord." His words were:
"If any brother has a wife who is an unbeliever, and she consents to live with him, he should not divorce her. If any woman has a husband who is an unbeliever, and he consents to live with her, she should not divorce him. For the unbelieving husband is consecrated through his wife, and the unbelieving wife is consecrated through her husband. Otherwise, your children would be unclean, but as it is they are holy. But if the unbelieving partner desires to separate, let it be so; in such a case the brother or sister is not bound. For God has called us to peace" 1 Corinthians 7:10-15.
A clear distinction is being made, that some are believers and some are not, and that in the new situation of the establishment of the Christian church there may well be a marriage in which the partners are on opposite sides. The unbelieving partner may desire to separate, and this should be permitted because of the great differences between them. There is no mention of the believing partner desiring to separate, and the Lord's ruling forbade his taking divorce action.
The additions were intended as a justification of what had happened with Jesus and Mary Magdalene. After 44 AD Mary had to be classed as a non-believer. The last phrase "for God has called us to peace" gives the explanation. Their politics concerning Rome, in this period of tolerance under Claudius, were diametrically opposite. Jesus with Matthew Annas had changed his methods to co-operate with Rome through peaceful evangelism. He could work with the young prince Agrippa although he had been an enemy of his father. Mary Magdalene, still in the company of Helena and Simon Magus, was a passionate freedom fighter, believing that the evil of the Roman occupation of their country had to be fought to the extent of martyrdom. From her point of view, Jesus had betrayed their cause. He, however, had not initiated any divorce action. The initiative had been hers.
It is shown in the account of June, 46 AD that Mary was living in the monastery of Simon Magus in Caesarea. She had her children with her, including the 9 year old Jesus Justus, who was being educated by the Magians. When he turned 12, Jesus would have authority over him and would make decisions concerning his education. In 49 AD Jesus brought him to Ephesus, and he was integrated into his second family.
There was no doubt that it was a serious setback for the reputation of Jesus and his party. Essenes were notable for their prohibition of divorce. Their carefully structured rules for limiting sexual activity to procreation allowed a first wedding followed by a trial marriage for up to three years. It could be ended if there was no pregnancy. If, however, the bride was three months pregnant and the danger of miscarriage was past, there was a second, binding marriage from which there could be no divorce.
The divorce caused a grievous separation between Jesus and John Mark, the Beloved disciple, the go-between in their marriage. He was in personal sympathy with Mary and held the Essene doctrine. At the beginning of 45 AD when they reached Agrippa's house in Perga of Pamphylia John Mark left the royal house and returned to his Gentile monastery at Qumran, where he continued for many years as an ally of Simon Magus.
In the homeland, all that Jesus had stood for was in danger of being discredited. At the beginning of 45 AD the young prince Agrippa set out to return to Rome, for since his father's death it was necessary for him to present himself before the emperor to obtain his confirmation that he was the successor to his father. One of the advisers who accompanied him was Jesus. It was seen as a necessary tactical move that he should be absent in Rome at the time the news of his divorce broke in the east, during the period that Paul conducted the legal proceedings.
Even worse than divorce was a remarriage, which under this understanding was defined as polygamy. Although polygamy was common at that time among mainstream Jews, it was opposed by the Essenes. The rules for the king in the Temple Scroll included, "He shall not take another wife in addition to (his first wife), for she alone shall be with him all the days of her life." (Temple Scroll 57:17-18. ). The New Testament holds the same view, "a bishop must be...the husband of one wife." (1 Timothy 3:2).
In March of 50 AD, four years after his divorce became final, Jesus married again. His bride was a young woman named Lydia, from the convent in Thyatira. The women of the two female orders, Asher and Dan, were educated there. Lydia was a "seller of purple", which meant that she held that women could be bishops wearing purple, and she took part in the promotion of women to that status. The wedding took place in Philippi in Macedonia, northern Greece. Jesus waited three months in order that his bride should preserve the rule of abstinence after the first wedding, then in June 50 AD a conception took place. A daughter was born in Berea in Macedonia in March 51 AD, as is shown through the pesher language of Acts 17:10-13.
For the conservative Essenes , this was nothing but polygamy. They did not recognize the divorce, and believed that Jesus was married to two women at once. They wrote a furious passage in the Damascus Document, in 4:15-5:5, saying that Jesus had committed one of the three serious sins, fornication. Calling Jesus Saw, (an initial Sadhe with the letter Waw attached, the initial of Saddiq the Righteous One), they said he was "caught in fornication twice by taking a second wife while the first is alive, although the principle of creation is, 'Male and female he created them' (Genesis 1:27)". They also quoted Deuteronomy 17:17 , that the prince "shall not multiply wives for himself". They had to admit, however, that King David, the admired ancestor of Jesus, had been a polygamist. They rationalised this problem with the assertion that King David had not read Deuteronomy, the sealed book of the Law, because it had been hidden in the ark and was not brought out until centuries later (2 Kings 22:8-20).
Jesus had taken another step in the direction of separation from the Essenes among whom he had been born. In Rome, however, there was no impediment to his second marriage. His new "eunuch", replacing John Mark, was Luke-Cornelius. He and Jesus were intellectually compatible, and collaborated together on the writing of Luke's gospel and Acts.
In 45 AD, avoiding the scandal in the homeland, the Beloved Son came to the Vineyard, in the words of the parable of the Vineyard (Mark 12:6-8 ). "The Vineyard" was the name given to the house just inside the south wall of Rome that Agrippa I had inhabited during his education as a boy and young man. As soon as he was old enough to set about achieving his ambition of regaining the Herodian monarchy, he had invited leading Romans to his house, entertaining them at lavish banquets in the Roman style. His house came to be called the Vineyard because of the consumption of wine, and also "Tavern 3", for he gave hospitality there to Jews visiting Rome. The house now passed to the young prince Agrippa II after his father's death, and was inhabited by him while he received his education in Rome.
Peter and Paul were both longstanding members of the royal court of the Agrippas. Paul as the tutor of the Herod princes had the greater influence, and was clear of any charge of complicity in the assassination of Agrippa I. He was now instrumental in bringing Jesus into the court of the young prince, who was proving amenable to the teaching that was being called Christian. Jesus had always stood for peace with Rome, even while he was a close associate of the anti-monarchists. With the change of political climate under Claudius, there was every reason why he would transfer to the royal court.
Jesus had already spent three years in Rome in his 20's while his father served a triennium there from 18 to 21 AD, and he had enjoyed its civilisation. Returning there in 45, he was based in the Vineyard until early 49 AD, when the actions of his associates caused their expulsion from Rome. That was the occasion when the Beloved Son was "killed" (excommunicated) and cast out of the Vineyard (Mark 12:8).
Peter had been appointed by Agrippa I to serve in his Rome house, to which Jewish pilgrims came. He was in Antioch in June 44 AD, but did not figure in the episodes of the next few months in Galatia. It appears that he went to Rome earlier than Jesus, reaching it by December 44. There, in the house of Agrippa II, acting on behalf of Agrippa as a "Noah", Peter had with him the man who would replace Philip as the head of Shem Gentiles, for Philip had continued to side with Simon Magus. This man was called Mark, after whom the gospel of Mark, authorised by Peter, was named. In early 45 Peter wrote an epistle to the churches in the Herodian houses in Asia Minor, mentioning "my son Mark" (1 Peter 5:13). Peter in the same sentence referred to Rome in the accepted coded language as "Babylon", following the practice of Qumran.
On June 28, 45 AD - the date given in the letter- the emperor Claudius authorised a letter confirming that the youthful Agrippa II was the successor to his murdered father Agrippa I. The 17 year old prince with members of his family and his courtiers had travelled to Rome early in AD 45 in order to meet with the emperor and ask for his decision. Josephus, writing subsequently as a supporter of the royal Herodian house, quotes the letter in full from his sources.
"Claudius Caesar Germanicus (with further titles)...to the rulers, council and people of Jerusalem and to the whole nation of the Jews, greeting. My friend Agrippa (II) whom I have brought up and now have with me, a man of the greatest piety, brought your envoys before me. They gave thanks for the tender care that I have shown your nation and earnestly and zealously requested that the holy vestmemts and the crown might be placed in your hands...I have given my consent to this measure, first because I cherish religion myself and wish to see every nation maintain the religious practices that are traditional with it, and secondly because I know that in doing so I shall give great pleasure to King Herod himself (Herod of Chalcis, brother of Agrippa I, who had been acting as regent) and to Aristobulus the Younger (son of Herod of Chalcis) - excellent men for whom I have high regard, men of whose devotion to me and zeal for your interest I am aware and with whom I have very many ties of friendship. I am also writing on these matters to my procurator Cuspius Fadus. The bearers of this letter are Cornelius son of Ceron, Tryphon son of Theudion, Dorotheus son of Nathanael, and John son of John. Written on the fourth day before the Kalends of July in the consulship of Rufus and Pompeius Silvanus."
Herod of Chalcis was given authority over the temple and the holy vessels and the selection of the high priests, while the prince was given the crown. He was still too young for his coronation, which would take place in early 49 AD.
In the background of the deputation to Claudius lay disputes among the visiting Herods on the subject of Jesus' divorce. Herod of Chalcis, who had taken part in the assassination of his brother Agrippa I, held the anti-monarchist views of Damascus and Simon Magus, which meant that he sided with John Mark. Aristobulus his son, in friendly contact with Agrippa and Jesus, thought the divorce advisable in view of the opposite political views on Rome and Agrippa that had come to divide the family.
The pesher of Acts continues the inside story following the appointment of Agrippa II as successor to the king. It was already apparent to all that the prince was not a strong character, while his twin sister Bernice, married to her uncle Herod of Chalcis, was very much more forceful. A few years later rumors began that Agrippa had committed incest with his sister. It was apparent that he would not have a normal marriage to produce a son to take up the succession. He was the only surviving son of Agrippa I, and the succession would pass to his sister and her heirs. But the prince and his advisers saw this as a retrograde move and advised adoption of an heir, a practice that was common with the Roman emperors.
Aristobulus, friendly to Agrippa II, was married to Salome, another relative who was the product of the unhappy first marriage of Thomas Herod with Herodias the sister of Agrippa I. Salome's own second marriage was to Aristobulus. They produced three sons, called Herod, Agrippa and Aristobulus in Josephus' record. All three became Christians, and consequently adopted Greek names that were used within the church community. They became Timothy, Tychicus and Trophimus.
As soon as the emperor's decision was announced in June 45 AD, Aristobulus and Salome with Agrippa hastened back to southern Galatia, where they had a house in Lystra. They had persuaded Agrippa to adopt their eldest son Timothy, another Herod, as his heir. Timothy, born in September 36 AD, had now reached the age of 9, when a boy began his education. A Magian priest attached to the court was needed for the solemn ceremony of adoption. The "magician" Atomus, who had taken over the Magian monastery of Tarsus in Cilicia when Agrippa I gained rule in 37, now came forward to act in the family affairs of the second Agrippa, as he would continue to do.
The Magians of both their parties, monarchist and anti-monarchist, had adopted as their missionary strategy a claim that their Jewish and Samaritan celibates were incarnations of the Greek gods. By a process of syncretism, they made it easier for pagans to convert, holding services for them with the same rites on the same sacred occasions, bringing uncritical pagans to believe that the new religion was not too different from their familiar one. A superior celibate bishop was said to be an incarnation of Zeus, and his assistant lay bishop Hermes, the herald of the gods. Women celibates were identified with the goddesses worshipped in different countries, such as Artemis (Diana) in Ephesus.
The adoption ceremony in Lystra was held on Timothy's official 9th birthday, September 1 AD 45. All royal persons had an official birthday on the Julian 1st of the month, some repeating it later at the equinox or solstice. Atomus had arranged that the ministers present, Barnabas the brother of Jesus together with Paul, were hailed by the congregation as incarnations of Zeus and Hermes, and that the parents of Timothy were associated with pagan imagery. Aristobulus was likened to the Mithraic bull and Salome crowned with a garland of flowers, as a reflection of the "rose of Sharon". She would act as the chief female missionary in the house of the prince.
Agrippa, now aged 18, was present as the adoptive father of Timothy. Since he had just been confirmed as king, the congregation stirred up by Atomus hailed him as a divine being, a god, following the example of his father Agrippa I who had claimed Messiahship and been hailed as a god.
When it came to the sacred meal on that day, the offence of these practices was too much for Barnabas. The noon meal was held in eucharistic form, as a sacrifice in which the wine represented the blood of martyrs. It should only be taken in this form by celibates prepared to sacrifice their lives in order to fight for the right. Atomus allowed a married man to conduct the meal in eucharistic form. The man was thus acting as an "unclean spirit", a married minister, from the point of view of celibates.
Barnabas enacted his rejection of the unholiness of the occasion by tearing off his surplice. He attacked the married man, explaining his own doctrine of ministry. Celibates belonged in the abbeys led by Matthew Annas. Their right to perform priestly duties came from their purity as celibates. Matthew, who had been born to the priesthood, had the power to control the calendar and all ritual matters, while the celibates were his levites. Barnabas ended by forbidding the married man to conduct a eucharistic form of the communion meal.
The adoption of Timothy led to further disputes between the factions in the house of Agrippa. It had long been the right of the order of Benjamin, of which Paul was a member, to act as tutors to the Herod princes. Herod the Great, aspiring to political supremacy in the east, had followed the example of the education of princes that had produced Alexander the Great, whose tutor was Aristotle. While his sons were still boys Herod put them in the charge of a tutor in the succession of Hillel and Gamaliel, resident in his Jericho palace, subsequently sending them to Rome for their higher education. Paul had now taken up the position of tutor because of his outstanding qualities. He subsequently spoke of Timothy his pupil with great affection as "my son Timothy."
But Timothy's father Aristobulus, with more conservative views, was aware that, under the influence of Jesus, Paul was questioning the Law and traditional Judaism, going beyond the views of even the hellenised ascetics. On this occasion Aristobulus protested that Paul was not suitable to be the sole tutor to his son. An associate tutor was appointed, the influential James Niceta. His order had already accepted Salome the wife of Aristobulus to be their "Sarah". He would give the boy, being educated in Asia Minor, a better understanding of the enduring authority of Jerusalem and the homeland.
The Council of Jerusalem, 46 AD
In 46 AD it was just 40 years from the Roman occupation of Judea that had changed the course of Jewish history. For those still holding that history operated according to an Exodus-Holy War pattern in sets of 40 years, it should be seen as the end of a Holy War following the New Exodus that had begun in 41 BC, the year 3900, under Herod the Great. But no victory had come. As always, the failure was rationalised by reflecting on the course of events. For supporters of the Annas priests, who believed in peace with Rome, the 40 years 6 to 46 could be re-interpreted as a New Exodus, for it was in 6 AD that the founder of the Annas priesthood, Ananus the Elder, had been appointed by the Romans as high priest. For this party it remained to consider what policy should be adopted for the next 40 years, how a spiritual warfare in the form of evangelism, such as the Annas priests approved, could be conducted. A council was held in Jerusalem, at the Essene Gate, at Pentecost in 46 AD.
Recent events were uppermost in the mind of the council. The divorce of Jesus had just been finalized. For James the brother of Jesus, the scandal was so great that he reverted to the Pharisee view that he was the legitimate David. He adopted the title of the "Jacob" (James), that of the David in his role of the patriarch of the west. The Christians allowed him to use it because Jesus for them was far higher than a patriarch.
The related question arose of whether Gentiles should become full proselytes, the Damascus view, which Thomas strongly upheld, or whether some should be permitted to retain their own ethnic identity. For John Mark, who had lost his position as "eunuch" in Jesus' marriage after the divorce, Gentiles should only be allowed to remain uncircumcised if they compensated for it by the holy life of permanent celibacy. John Mark sided with James, the pair appearing as "the apostles and elders", in the plural of reproduction.
Peter and Jesus, based in Rome, visited Jerusalem for the council. Peter made a speech in favor of the uncircumcised who kept their own ethnic identity. James reiterated the views on this subject of the Damascus party, although he with the Princes of Judah had left it in 40 AD to become Jewish Christians. But he made some concessions, that as long as Gentiles did not engage in emperor worship, or follow immoral ways, they could retain their status in Asia Minor.
Apollos the deputy abbot to Matthew Annas proved to be a reconciling force. He was sufficiently conservative to show sympathy with Jewish Christians, and he wrote a document that would enable co-operation with them to be maintained in Antioch.
But Barnabas the brother of Jesus, a celibate, also found the divorce contrary to all that their Essene family had stood for. After the council a "paroxysm" occurred, in the words of Acts 15:39. Barnabas and John Mark separated , declaring that they would continue mission to monastic Gentiles as it had always been conducted on the island of Cyprus. Their subsequent work there is recorded in the valuable apocryphal document the Acts of Barnabas. (See Acts of Barnabas in our Section 4)
Paul declared that he was against monasticism and in favor of mission to people living in the world. He had approved the divorce and arranged for it to happen. He remained the loyal deputy of Jesus, and with Simon-Silas the youngest brother of Jesus traveled on behalf of Jesus to the churches in the royal Herod houses in Asia Minor. Jesus himself returned to Rome, where he stayed until AD 49.
The Roman historian Suetonius, in his "Life of Claudius" wrote, "Since the Jews were continually making disturbances at the instigation of Chrestus, he (Claudius) expelled them from Rome." The context indicates that the expulsion took place about 49 AD.
The names "Christus" and "Chrestus" were pronounced in a similar way, and scholars usually see this passage as referring to Christians, still understood to be Jews. The name is used in a way that would indicate that the Christ was present in the city, stirring up the riots.
This event is referred to in Acts 18:2, concerning "a Jew named Aquila...lately come from Italy with his wife Priscilla, because Claudius had commanded all the Jews to leave Rome."
For the version of the chronology that counted from 1AD - the version that came to be accepted in the church - the year 49 was a jubilee year, since the solarists used jubilees of 49 years. Those who had been forced to postpone their jubilee year for the Restoration several times would have seen 49 AD as, at last, the great year for the Restoration of the Davids and the true high priests. As on all such occasions they would have come out into the open in numbers in a state of public excitement, to hail the descent from heaven of the New Jerusalem. But Claudius was persuaded to expel them as aliens.
For the missionaries based in Agrippa's house this was a setback, for their chronological theory was part of their hope that they would usher in the Kingdom of the Jews, a world empire that would take up the achievements of the Roman empire and transform them through their version of the Jewish religion. To conquer Europe as the route to Rome remained their intention, and they retreated only as far as Greece, in its two divisions of Achaia and Macedonia.
Achaia in the south contained Athens, the home of Hellenism, the cultural capital of the empire. Its port the Piraeus opened on to the Aegean Sea. The secondary city Corinth also had a port to the sea, Cenchreae.
The wealthy Herods owned houses in these cities and in Macedonia, and from these the missionaries continued to build up their communities, looking westward. Across the Aegean Ephesus in the province of Asia stood at the western limit of Asia Minor, a thriving city that worshipped the goddess Artemis (Diana), whose magnificent temple was the cultural center of Asia Minor.
Bernice the sister of Agrippa II, his rival for power, established a house in Ephesus, and by Magians was treated as an incarnation of the goddess. Her party looked east, believing that Jerusalem would be the capital of the coming Kingdom of the Jews. They frequently co-operated with the monastery of Magians in the same city, one of those under the authority of Simon Magus. Bernice's brother Agrippa also had a house in a different part of the city, intended to hold a balance between east and west but looking chiefly to the west.
After 44 AD and their exile to Antioch, the Christians in Agrippa's house looked to Asia Minor as a productive mission field, with Ephesus as a primary base. The action from Acts 16 onwards takes place in these areas, with no return to Jerusalem until the late 50's.
The incest of Agrippa II and Bernice.
Josephus, Antiquities 20, 145-146.
Dio Cassius, Roman History 65, 15:3-4; 66, 8:1 (See Dio Cassius, Roman History 65 & Dio Cassius, Roman History 66)
During the year 50 AD or earlier, Agrippa II and his twin sister Bernice committed incest. It was not an unknown phenomenon in royal houses, being normal in Egypt, and it had been done in Adiabene, as the story of its Queen Helena shows. The theory was that the royal bloodline should be kept within the same family. Josephus reports it for the Herodian pair. In their case their personalities would have been a major factor: Agrippa was timid and so sexually inhibited that he remained unmarried all his long life, while Bernice was overpowering and ambitious for the power that the monarchy gave.
It was a scandal for western morality, and it helped bring the house of Agrippa with its Christians to the nadir of their reputation. Happening at the same time as the remarriage of Jesus after his divorce, it gave ammunition to their rival mission, the Damascus party, who could bring charges of gross immorality.
In the scale of sins represented by a ladder
In Acts 17:5-9 there is a clear allusion to the Genesis story of Sodom, (Genesis 19:1-11 ). In that story the men of Sodom stood outside Lot's house and demanded that some visiting angels be brought out to them for their use, but were refused by Lot. In Thessalonica in September of 50 AD , in the Herod prince's house, Aristobulus went to Matthew the abbot and complained about four evil men in Agrippa's court. Aristobulus corresponded to Lot, and Matthew to the "angels" inside the house. The evil men corresponding to the men of Sodom outside were first, Agrippa for his incest. Aristobulus demanded that he be reduced to the low seat in the congregation to which grade 13 sinners were sent. Next Atomus, the pro-monarchist Magus who had replaced Simon Magus in Agrippa's court, called "Jason" because he continued the Magian sea mission to Gentiles. He was in sympathy with paganism, and despite his influence over Herodian marriages he should not be permitted to join with Jewish ministers. Next, Thomas for the sodomy to which he had reverted. Next, Jesus, who was "turning the household of Agrippa upside down" by departing from the very strict sexual code. Jesus was accused of having a foot in both houses, continuing his association with Thomas and Simon Magus. Thomas in his role of head of proselytes was endorsing him as the true David, against James.
The house of Bernice, containing Thomas, was as morally doubtful as the house of Agrippa was alleged to be. After the death of Herod of Chalcis her uncle, and after the charges of incest became known, Bernice married Polemo the king of Cilicia, who was attracted to her wealth and agreed to become Jewish. After a very short time she deserted Polemo, out of licentiousness. Her subsequent history found a place in the record of the Roman historian Dio Cassius. When Titus the son of Vespasian was in Judea in 68 AD , finishing the war on behalf of his father who had been called to Rome to become emperor, Bernice, acting as queen and patriot in Jerusalem, decided to use her own methods of gaining power over Rome. She became the mistress of Titus, and was with him in Rome in 75 AD. She moved in with him, expecting to marry him, behaving as if she was his wife. But the prospect of a Jewish empress was too much for the Romans, and she was sent away. In 79 when Titus became emperor after his father she again came to Rome, but again was refused, and returned to Ephesus for the rest of her days, to figure as "the woman clothed in purple and scarlet" of Revelation 17:4 .
In December of AD 51 Paul's despondency over the moral crisis was cured by the greatest triumph of his missionary career. There now entered the history the eminent Roman Stoic philosopher Seneca.
Lucius Annaeus Seneca , c.BC - 65 AD, was born in Spain of a family of Italian expatriates. He was a man of wide learning extending into many fields, including the occult. Best known for his plays, but also as an orator, philosopher, and essayist, his great reputation brought him to Caligula's court, from which he was exiled as a result of a sexual scandal. Towards the end of the reign of Claudius he was appointed by Agrippina, Claudius' third wife, to be tutor to her son by an earlier marriage, who would become the emperor Nero. On the accession of Nero resulting from his mother's connivance, Seneca was recalled to the court, and became the close adviser to the 17 year old youth. Together with Agrippina, Seneca took part in ruling Rome, competing with other less wise influences such as Pallas his mother's lover, the richest man in Rome. He exercised a steadying influence on Nero, writing his speeches and presenting him publicly as having appropriate intellectual interests. But when the boy developed, with his power going to his head, he ordered the execution of his mother in 59 AD. By 62 AD Seneca was out of favor in the court, and in 65 AD he was charged with plotting against Nero and was forced to commit suicide.
Among the documents preserved in the Christian church and regarded as apocryphal is a collection of over a dozen letters in the form of correspondence between Seneca and Paul. Beginning at the inauguration of Nero's reign in 54 AD, the later ones have exact dates, between 58 and 64 AD. All historical detail in them is in accord with what is known of the facts of Nero's reign. They use terms beginning with great respect shown by Paul, "I consider myself honored by this judgment of a sincere man" and move on to personal friendship, Paul speaking of Seneca's love for him.
While the earlier letters present Nero in the favorable light for which Seneca is known to have been responsible, the final one, written 64 AD in the year of the great fire of Rome, shows the philosopher, a year before his death, giving free rein to his contempt for the emperor. He writes, "This rowdy, whoever he is that finds pleasure in murder and uses lies as a disguise, is destined for his own time." Seneca shows total sympathy with the Christians who were blamed for the fire, and at the same time gives a hint of their reputation for criminality in Rome. He shows unswerving affection for Paul.
The critically minded church father Jerome, writing 392 AD, regarded the letters as genuine. He spoke of Seneca's abstemious life, and said that the correspondence with Paul should qualify Seneca to be received into the list of saints. But in the 19th century, at the height of German critical scholarship, the letters were defined as spurious, a product of later self-serving in order to claim that Christians had been at the top of Roman society.
It was possible to hold such a view when there was no knowledge that Christianity had been from the beginning a political movement and had begun in the houses of the Herods, who moved in the highest Roman social circles. The myth was sustained that it began with a small obscure group, slaves and workers such as fishermen, who derived from one man, Jesus, as a result of revelation. The documentary evidence that the Agrippas, kings of the Jews, had an accepted place in Roman imperial circles was regarded as irrelevant, and the statement of Josephus that the Christians were known under the Agrippas was dismissed as interpolation, although there was no manuscript support for that assumption.
There is every reason now, with the flood of new historical material, to accept the letters as genuine, and to see them as a major source. From the information in these letters there is a direct line to the events of the late 50's and the final fate of Paul.
Acts 17:16-34 presents Paul in Athens, at a date that the pesher shows to be December 51 AD. The center of religious life in Athens was the Parthenon, dedicated to the goddess Athena, crowning the Acropolis.
The surface story shows Paul as an alien among Athenian intellectuals, Stoics and Epicureans, arguing for a strange foreign religion, disdained as a "babbler" (spermologos)). He was allowed to make a speech on the Areopagus, in which he described the Athenians as worshipping an unknown god (agnōstos theos). He received interest from some and was asked to speak again. At the end of the chapter there is a mention of Dionysius the Areopagite and a woman named Damaris in Athens.
In 51 AD Nero was 14 years old, being educated by Seneca in the last years of Claudius' reign. He subsequently showed a passion for all things Greek. The Stoics and Epicureans of the surface text are to be treated, like all plurals of persons, as plurals of reproduction.. The "Stoics" mean Seneca, who had taken his pupil to Athens for his education in the Greek language and philosophy. At the impressionable age of 14, Nero acquired his enthusiasm for Greek culture. He was exposed to the other branches of philosophy that were current, and for reasons of temperament preferred Epicureanism, the teaching that happiness is the ultimate good.
In the same year Timothy, the adopted heir of Agrippa, was 15 years old. He also was to be given the best possible education in accordance with Herodian ambitions, his tutor being Paul. The reason for Paul's visit to Athens was to bring Timothy there. They stayed in the house of Agrippa in Athens, one of the houses that the wealthy Herods kept in many main cities. It stood in the area of the Areopagus under the shadow of the Parthenon.
Attached to the house, as to all the royal houses, was the abbey, under the direction of Matthew Annas the chief abbot . It was within this building that Paul spoke, giving instruction to Timothy about the rules for the ascetic life. The worship of a "God" who was a-gnōstos meant, in the pesher, that it was an abbey and not a Magian monastery, where gnostic teaching was given. The abbot, an Annas priest, was called "God" in accordance with the theory of incarnation accepted by Sadducees. The question of a celibate life in an abbey was always an issue, for some adopted a dynastic form of celibacy, others were free to leave and marry. The special meaning of "resurrection", anastasis, is the adoption of the celibate life. Sadducees encouraged as their highest discipline that of monastic dynasts, while Pharisees favored marriage and family life. A young man beginning his education in an abbey school was taught about both kinds, and would later choose which of them to follow.
Paul's position as tutor in the court of Agrippa gave him high social status among Jews, enough to give him an entrée to Seneca staying in the same city. The Herods had been moving in imperial circles ever since Herod the Great built a house in Rome and had his sons educated there. He had successfully cultivated Augustus, and the association continued, although Judea was only a small outlying state that would not normally have been noticed. But the Herods with their great talent and ambition for power in the east had succeeded in making an impression on Roman society. They were regarded as intriguing, bringing the mystery of the foreign east to be explored by the intellectually curious. Seneca with his love of the occult would have got to know Agrippa I while he was a member of the court of Caligula, who had been flattered into restoring the Herodian kingship to Agrippa.
In Athens there would have been opportunities for the two tutors to meet, to discuss their pupils' progress and to further their own knowledge. Paul found that the lively minded Seneca continued his interest in matters Jewish, and was especially interested to hear of the hellenised version of it taught by the ascetics. Beginning with respect from Paul, the two progressed to a personal friendship which was maintained through correspondence. Paul, aware of the great honor being done to him, and above all of the immense value to his mission, kept the letters, and they were preserved in the church's archives.
The Dionysius at the end of the chapter was named for the Greek god of wine. He belonged in "the Vineyard", the house of the Agrippas.The servant of both Agrippas, often acting on their behalf, was the Merari, the lowest levite, Ananus the Younger. Appearing under various pseudonyms, including the "jailer" in Philippi, he as Dionysius the steward of a "Vineyard" was now in Athens as servant in the house of Agrippa II.
As the primary Herodian centre in Achaia-Macedonia, legal decisions were issued from the Athens house and abbey concerning members of the mission in the area. They included permissions to marry, which had to be approved by the king for courtiers close to him.
In September AD 51 Tamar the daughter of Jesus, born September 33 AD, had turned 18. The Greek form of her name was Damaris. She was to be betrothed, and Jesus came to Athens to obtain permission from Agrippa. The man to whom she was to be betrothed was Paul, unfailingly devoted to Jesus, an intimate within his family circle. Paul himself, born 17 AD, would reach the age for a dynastic marriage, 36, in September 53 AD. The betrothal was to take place two years previously, in December because it would be in December 53 that the couple after their wedding in September 53 would come together for sex. The permission was given.
The marriage of Paul and Tamar
Josephus, War 2, 160-161
The married couple in Corinth were Aquila and Priscilla. John Aquila was the twin brother of James Niceta, the pair born of their mother's adultery with a slave, whose story is told in the Clementines. (See The Clementine Books in our Section 4)
John Aquila had chosen the marriage option of the abbeys. Paul went from Athens to stay in their house in March 52 AD, joining in their work as missionaries, or "tabernacle-makers". The Exodus imagery of the mission held that initiates constituted a spiritual tabernacle in the wilderness. Married missionaries earned their own living as workers, for the ascetics did not support the married class financially. They, rather, were the source of the tithes, fees and gifts, on which the mission depended for its income.
The missionary work in Corinth was very lively, but was beset by factions, the differences of doctrine arising from the previous history and from different views on celibacy. In the words of the later letter to Corinthians, some said they were "of Christ", others "of Apollos", others "of Cephas" (Peter) others "of Paul". (1 Corinthians 1:12). Jesus himself was now practicing the highest level of a dynastic marriage, following the birth of Lydia's child in March 51 AD. At the age of 57 he had renounced sexual activity and lived for the most part in seclusion in rooms attached to the abbey, his seclusion aiding the belief that he was no longer living. He did, however, continue to receive his executives, primarily Paul.
In March 53 AD under a Pharisee high priest in Jerusalem there was trouble in Corinth from Brother James, who revived his attack on the legitimacy of Jesus, and consequently on the right of Jesus Justus to be treated as the David crown prince. Jesus affirmed to Paul that Jesus Justus was indeed the prince, and that Paul should continue to teach him, bringing him to his 16th birthday in June 53. On that occasion Jesus Justus was given the title the Word of God, passed on from his father (Acts 18:9-11). From that period there dated the hostility between Brother James and Agrippa's house, that would end with the stoning to death of James by the Merari, Ananus the Younger, when he became high priest in AD 52 ( Josephus, Antiquities 20, 200).
In September 53 AD the marriage service of Paul and Tamar was held. A political question arose, as to whether it should be in the hellenised form in Greek used in Agrippa's house, or in the Jewish form in Hebrew preserved in the more conservative abbeys. At that season Timothy turned 17. At that age a Herod prince was given diplomatic experience by being appointed a proconsul, secretary to a Roman superior. Two other such occasions appear in the Acts pesher. The prince as a servant could use the name of his superior, in this case Gallio. The "Gallio" who performed Paul's marriage ceremony was young Timothy, now with some functions of ministry. He was advised by his father Aristobulus standing behind him. Some conflict arose at the ceremony because of the divorce of Jesus, from celibates who were keeping the Essene rule forbidding divorce. It was overruled by Timothy accepting advice in favor of Jesus, and the ceremony went ahead.
Under the dynastic rule being supervised by Aquila and Priscilla, the couple had to wait until December, the least "holy" season, before having sex. Paul and Tamar went with their chaperones to stay in Cenchreae the port of Corinth. Paul shaved off his long hair and beard, in accordance with the rule that a man who was married but abstaining from sex should take a Nazirite vow, allowing his hair to grow long according to Numbers 6:5 . He would shave it when he was to have sex with his wife. Tamar as a married woman changed her name, from the Jewish one Tamar to the Greek one Phoebe. A married woman exercised the lowest kind of ministry, that of a deacon. When he later sent the letter to Romans in her care to Rome, Paul introduced her in Romans 16:1 as Phoebe, a deacon ( diakonos, the masculine form), of the church at Cenchreae. He called her a helper, prostatis, meaning a lay deacon, "of many and of myself as well".
A conception took place in December, and for three months thereafter, in order to avoid miscarriage, the couple did not have intercourse, as is shown by Josephus for Essene marriages ( Josephus, War 2, 160-161 ). Priscilla and Aquila stayed with them during this period as continuing chaperones. They all crossed to Ephesus, and were there in March 54 AD in the house of Agrippa. Then the binding marriage took place, when the bride was 3 months pregnant. Paul now separated from her, leaving her in the care of the married couple, and he himself went east on further mission business. He visited Caesarea and Antioch. In September 54 when the birth was due he went into Asia Minor, to Phrygia, where there was a female convent. Tamar-Phoebe was brought there and the birth of a daughter took place. The consequence for Paul was that he must arrange that they should come together again in September 57 AD. From March 55 AD he was appointed to the house of Agrippa in Ephesus, where for the next two years he did his most useful work.
The final stages for the generation of Jesus began in 55AD. They were the direct consequence of political changes in Rome at the beginning of the reign of Nero, who became emperor at the age of 17 on October 13, 54 AD.
Danger from Poppea. Seneca's warning letter.
Josephus, Antiquities 20, 134-136 ; Josephus, Antiquities 20, 145-146 ; Josephus, Antiquities 20, 189-196 .
The women in Caesar's court, since the time of Antonia the patron of Agrippa I, had taken an interest in Jewish matters and were called on to advise when a legal decision concerning them had to be made. In the final years of Claudius, his third wife Agrippina had conspired with her lover Pallas to gain all power. She poisoned Claudius - as was widely believed - overcame Claudius' own son, and put in his place as the new emperor her own son Nero, born of her earlier marriage. His mother, advised by Pallas, a former slave who had risen to be the wealthiest man in Rome, claimed the position of regent and exercised actual imperial power, giving herself the title of Augusta. She held her power for a few years, but was already declining in 55 AD , and in 59 AD was murdered on the orders of her son.
During 55 AD Bernice , after her divorce from Polemo of Cilicia, went with Jonathan Annas to Rome. She sought the help of the dominating Agrippina to encourage her own aspirations to act as a queen regnant in the east, displacing her timid brother. Agrippina had previously exercised influence in favor of the royal Herods, at the time of a decision concerning another reckless Roman governor of Judea, Cumanus.
Bernice and Jonathan Annas soon found, however, that Agrippina's authority was fading, and that the rising female power was Poppea Sabina , the mistress of Nero who would subsequently become his wife and empress. She was beginning to act as the adviser on Jewish affairs, and would later make a significant decision in favor of the Jerusalem temple priests and against Agrippa. Bernice knew that her former husband Polemo had become a Christian, instructed by Paul and admitted by Matthew Annas. Polemo had become Jewish in order to marry her, but at the divorce he gave up his Jewish identity. In Josephus' words "he was relieved simultaneously of his marriage and of further adherence to the Jewish way of life." Bernice had reason from this experience to say that Christians were not Jews. She now instructed Jonathan Annas to inform Poppea, with priestly authority, that the Christians represented by Paul were renegades. Paul taught that no Annas priests were necessary, for Jesus could be both high priest and king. Moreover, there had always been personal enmity between Jonathan Annas and Paul, ever since as a young man he had witnessed Jonathan's deposition.
If the pronouncement that Christians were renegades was made, it would have serious legal consequences. Under Claudius, Jews had been given equal civic rights in the empire. If the Christians were defined as not being Jews, they would lose those rights and become an illicit religion.
The other strong influence in the Roman court was Seneca, the famous Stoic philosopher who had taken an interest in Paul's version of Judaism in Athens. Having been the tutor of Nero as a boy, he was now struggling to advise him to make moral decisions. His correspondence with Paul from the time of Nero's accession was at first open and friendly, speaking of his attempts to introduce Nero to Paul's writings. He was even planning for Paul to come to Rome himself to meet Nero. But now, following Poppea's accepting the advice of Jonathan Annas, the tone of his next letter significantly changed. He wrote;
"Your staying away, being all too long, distresses us. What then is wrong? What keeps you away? If it is the empress's (Poppea) displeasure because you have wandered away from the ancient rites and belief (of Judaism) and become a convert elsewhere, then may you find opportunity to convince her that this has resulted from deliberation and not from levity."
Seneca's letter was received by Paul in Ephesus during 56 AD. He understood fully what lay behind it. Jonathan Annas had sabotaged his reputation, to the extent that he would lose his influence. The Seneca connection of which he was so proud had been undermined. Although Seneca would remain personally friendly, there would be no further advance for Paul's teaching in the highest Roman circles. Paul in his letter in reply showed a marked change of tone. He had become guarded, secretive, unable to speak openly, not naming names.
"I may not express myself with pen and ink regarding the matters about which you have written to me....I know that under you, that is among you and in your midst, there are people who understand me. We must treat all with respect, particularly when they strain after an opportunity to express their displeasure. If we have patience with them, we shall overcome them in every way and in every respect, provided only they are men who can show that they regret what they have done."
In a subsequent letter Paul begged Seneca not to try any longer to introduce his works to the emperor. "For I believe that your design to bring to his notice what contradicts his belief and tenets was misplaced. Since he worships the gods of the heathen, I do not see what purpose you can have...I am thus obliged to believe that you do it all out of a love for me that is much too great. I beg you for the future not to do any such thing again. For you must be wary lest in loving me, you offend his mistress (Poppea); her disfavor will indeed do no harm if she continues in it, nor will it avail anything if that does not happen; as queen she will not feel displeaure, but as a woman she will take offence."
A letter written several years later, dated 23 March 59 AD, shows that Paul with Seneca's help had found a way out of his personal dilemma by becoming a Roman citizen. Seneca had continued to show warm friendship to him, and he used the influence that he could still exercise over Nero.
The house of Bernice and the house of Agrippa II in Ephesus
Josephus, Antiquities 20, 137 ; Josephus, Antiquities 20, 142-143.
Acts 19:8-40 ; Acts 24:24. 3 John 12
The Book of Revelation
These events had their repercussions in Ephesus in 56 and 57 AD.
The main factions in Ephesus were located in two different houses belonging to the warring royal Herods, that of Agrippa II and that of Bernice. After the expulsion of 49 from Rome, Bernice's house had been established in Ephesus in direct rivalry with the worship of Artemis(Diana), to whom the pagan temple was dedicated. Bernice was set up as an incarnation of Artemis. Hers was the dominant Herodian house in the city. Together with Jonathan Annas, Thomas Herod lived there as leader of the Hellenists who upheld the priesthood of women. He instructed the young Bernicianus, born AD 45 from the marriage of Bernice with her uncle Herod of Chalcis, who was already showing an orientation to homosexuality.
The house of Bernice could be helped at times by Simon Magus, anti-royal and anti-Rome, a permanent opponent of the royal house of the Agrippas. His mission operated from another building in the city, a monastery with an extensive library. When he was assisting Bernice's mission he used the pseudonym Demetrius. He was referred to by that name in the third Epistle of John in the New Testament, penned by John Mark while he was still loyal to the Magians.
A mission from the alternate house of Agrippa II, which contained the Christian party, operated from Ephesus treated as the doorway to the west. Within it the minor internal factions continued, the Christians Peter, James Niceta and John Aquila upholding Annas priests in the person of Matthew Annas; and the Romans, Paul holding that Jesus' priesthood was sufficient. Brother James could be present at councils to represent the Jewish Christians of Jerusalem. Matthew Annas as abbot presided over the abbey, the place of worship attached to the royal house, with Apollos as his deputy. Apollos usually worked as an advance guard in Europe, in the royal houses in Athens and Corinth.
Felix, the brother of Pallas, had been sent as procurator to Judea in 52 AD to replace Cumanus who was sent into exile. Felix was married to Drusilla the younger sister of Agrippa and Bernice. The marriage had been arranged by Atomus, the alternate Magian who was in favor of the Herods, who allowed Felix to remain a pagan. There was hostility between the two sisters, according to Josephus because Bernice envied Drusilla's beauty.
Felix, based in Caesarea and Jerusalem, stayed in his brother-in-law Agrippa's house when he visited Ephesus. The fact that he had not become Jewish, yet could participate in worship in Agrippa's house, was the subject of intense criticism from Jews. In Josephus' words, Drusilla "was persuaded to transgress the ancestral laws and to marry Felix". As a pagan, Felix came into the class of sin 13, and was called "evil". Felix was the "man with the evil spirit" in the story of Acts 19:16.
In March 56 AD the question of sexual morality in the two houses again broke out, but this time the righteousness was in the house of Agrippa. The divorce of Jesus was in the past, since his successful second marriage. The scandal of Bernice's initiative in the incest, followed by the breakup of her marriage to Polemo due to her licentiousness, was doing great damage to the mission, which had attracted pagans because of its high ethical standards.
Within Agrippa's house, Matthew Annas in the abbey now accepted the opinions that had been expressed a decade before in the Book of Revelation by James Niceta, his Chief Gentile, and John Aquila. They had lost influence when they were known to have been relatives of Caligula, and now, under an emperor who was equally irresponsible, they re-asserted strict moral views. It was James Niceta who had been the author of the first completed section of the Book of Revelation, its chapters 8:6 to 14:5. In it he had condemned "Sodom" in the person of Thomas, who was associated for the assassination of Agrippa I with the eunuch Nicolaus-Blastus (Revelation 11:8). Simon Magus of the same party was called Beast 666 (Revelation 13:18). The second completed section of Revelation, its chapters 1:1 to 8:5, was the work of John Aquila, who upheld marriage. He had made an equal condemnation of Bernice, attributing the words to Jesus in the letters to the seven churches.
Bernice was a Jezebel. "I have this against you (the church in Thyatira) that you tolerate the woman Jezebel, who calls herself a prophetess and is teaching and beguiling my servants to practice immorality and to eat food sacrificed to idols...Behold, I will throw her on a sickbed, and those who commit adultery with her I will throw into great tribulation...and I will strike her children dead." (Revelation 2:20-23).
Apollos the deputy abbot agreed with James Niceta. He is glorified as Apollyon in Revelation 9:7-11 . Apollos preserved the traditions of the Therapeuts, who had been prepared to become militant, taking up arms to defend the faith. Under Judas the Galilean and in the gospel period they had taken up arms against the Roman occupying power. Theudas-Barabbas the chief Therapeut at that time was said to have committed murder in an anti-Roman insurrection. (Mark 15:7). Apollos' target was now different, not the Romans as a political power, but moral corruption wherever he found it, primarily in Rome. When circumstances called for it he was prepared to lead a band of killers called the Sicarii, the name coming from the large curved daggers they used to kill.
Paul in Agrippa's house, not as moralistic as James Niceta but with him politically, was reserved about Apollos' methods, but was a lifelong enemy of Jonathan Annas in Bernice's house. The issue when he was a young man, before meeting Jesus, had been the Pharisee-Sadducee doctrinal conflict. When he became a close intimate of Jesus he was constantly reminded, seeing his crippled hands, that Jonathan had tried to bring about the suicide of Jesus on the cross.
The letter of Seneca conveying the first information about Poppea's animosity had reached Paul by March 56 AD. On March 1 Paul took the initiative of separating James Niceta and his Gentiles from any association with the house of Bernice, Jonathan Annas, and Thomas, with their monastic associate Simon Magus. He confined them to the abbey school of Agrippa, called Tyrannus because a Herod over an abbey had despotic powers. (Acts 19:9).
At the same time Matthew Annas the peacemaker saw the need for a more tolerant approach than that of Revelation, at least on the question of homosexuality. He had previously been able to persuade Thomas, the head of proselytes, to adopt celibacy, becoming an Elect One, one of the Few who followed the celibate rule of a previous Sadducee priest who was not of the Annas house, called the Many. Matthew now sent Thomas to Rome, where he lived in Agrippa's house as Rufus the Elect One, the name "red" corresponding to the meaning of his title "Esau".
Later in the year 56 Jesus became involved with events in Ephesus. He was at that period resident in Corinth in southern Greece, where he had lived since the 49 AD expulsion from Rome. It was not a long journey across the Aegean to Ephesus, and he made the trip when the occasion called for it. On October 13, AD 56, he was present in Ephesus at the second anniversary of Nero's accession, where he took part in a ceremony showing public respect to the emperor. This was in accordance with the advice he wrote at this time "Let every person be subject to the governing authorities" (Romans 13:1).
The main reason for his visit was to attend the 20th birthday of Timothy, Agrippa's adopted heir and the pupil of Paul. Timothy was born in September 36 AD, and at the age of 20 would make the decision whether to marry or adopt the dynastic discipline of deferring marriage. Under Paul's tuition he chose the latter, and would take his vow on his birthday. His parents Aristobulus and Salome were present for the occasion.
Jesus in his exile had been composing a major work of theology, the Epistle to Romans, setting out what he believed was the true doctrine, that all Gentiles were equal with Jews and that had always been part of the divine plan. Faith in Jesus would give them their salvation, not the works of the Jewish law. The document was to be published as written by Paul, for it was not to be known to the world that Jesus was still living. For the same reason, John's gospel had been published as the work of John Mark. Romans was now sufficiently complete up to 15:21, without the final personal details that were to be added by Paul. Jesus brought it with him when he came to Ephesus for Timothy's birthday, and left it with Paul to be copied by a professional scribe. In it Jesus showed that he was aware of the treachery of Jonathan Annas and of Paul's angry desire to punish him.
"Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God; for it is written, 'Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord'. No, 'if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals upon his head.' Do not be overcome by evil but overcome evil with good." (Romans 12:19-21).
Jesus had returned to Corinth after the October 56 ceremony. At the beginning of 57 AD Paul received a deputation from a leader in Corinth, a woman named Chloe, telling him of factional fights that were besetting the unruly congregation. They had been brought about by the differences of doctrine that had been taught there in the early fifties by Peter (Cephas), Apollos, Paul himself and Jesus in the celibate house. At the end of the letter Paul set out his own plans for his movements during the year 57. At the very end he wrote an Aramaic word, Maranatha, meaning "Our Lord, come!" Appearing to have eschatological content, it was a coded message such as always had to be sent to the hidden Jesus. It was an invitation to Jesus to come back to Ephesus for two great occasions. Paul himself would turn 40 in September 57, and would begin preparing for the status of a monarchical bishop six months beforehand, in March. He was inviting Jesus to come to his ceremony, and inviting him also to stay on until June, when Jesus Justus would turn 20 and have a birthday celebration in Ephesus.
Jesus accepted Paul's invitation and was present in Ephesus in March 57, when Paul began his promotion, was given new vestments, and prepared for increased episcopal authority.
Paul had now overseen the completed copy of the Epistle to Romans, and added his own personal details at the end, sending greetings to those living in Agrippa's house in Rome. They included the Elect Rufus, Thomas, who had been sent to the house of Agrippa the previous year. They included also Aristobulus and Salome, who had left for Rome in September 56 after their son's birthday.
Paul now risked his own marriage in order to send Romans safely to Rome, to be read during worship in Agrippa's house. In September he was due to renew his marriage with Tamar-Phoebe the daughter of Jesus. She had given birth to a daughter in September 54, and three years later they should try for another conception. Pauls's age of 40 was exactly right according to the dynastic rule, which set the man's marriage at age 36, so that if a daughter was born the following September, there was still time for a son after the three years' break, while the husband was 40. The generations of kings and dynasts were calculated in sets of 40 years.
Tamar-Phoebe could be relied on to carry the document safely, concealed in her clothing. Paul calculated that with good conditions for sailing she could set out in March for the three months' sea voyage, arrive in June, deliver the letter, and return at once, reaching the marriage house in Troas north of Ephesus in September. As her male escort he sent with her Titus-Marsyas, always loyal to the house of Agrippa and also to the Davids, who would introduce her to the Rome house. When her return journey was delayed for a short time in September, Paul wrote his second letter to the Corinthians, including the account of his anxiety when Titus (with Tamar-Phoebe) had not met him in Troas, his decision to cross to Macedonia, and his relief when he met them there.
Bernice ascendant in Ephesus
Acts 19:13-40 .
Meanwhile, in June and September 57 AD, there was again intense conflict in Ephesus between the two royal houses. Thomas had returned from Rome, now better informed about Roman attitudes to the Jews. Those in Bernice's house could point out, with good reason, that they had the support of Poppea, who believed that they stood for true Judaism, against the heretical house of Agrippa. She would influence Nero in their favor, to apply to them the law giving civic rights to Jews, but deny it to Agrippa's house. Revelation 2:20-23
Thomas again came to live in Bernice's house with Jonathan Annas, who used the name "Sceva, a Jewish high priest". In Agrippa's house in June the pagan Felix, the Roman governor, was visiting. Motivated as much by protection of his wife's family as by his duty of upholding Roman interests among Jews, he attacked Jonathan Annas and Thomas, temporarily gaining the upper hand. He was motivated also by his fear that the influence of his brother in the Roman court was lessening with the decline of Agrippina. It was possible that the whole of Agrippa's house, including himself, would be condemned by the rising star Poppea.
At seasonal councils the house of Bernice met with Simon Magus in the monastery. His library, of which Thomas was given oversight, contained books worth 50 000 pieces of silver, as stated in Acts 19:19. The figure, like all numbers, gives valuable information. The 500 members of the Samaritan order of West Manasseh had begun their payments of annual fees in 44 BC when they had adopted the Julian calendar. They had now, in June 57 AD (allowing for the lack of a zero year in the calculation),continued for 100 years, each of the 500 members paying one piece of silver annually, making the total worth of the books 50 000 pieces of silver.
In September 57 the house of Bernice in Ephesus, together with Simon Magus, made their assertion of ascendancy. At the Magian monastery, which was built on the pattern of Qumran, they held a council at noon on the equinox 31st , Tuesday September 6. Simon Magus had made a fortune for his monastery by selling to initiates silver statuettes of Bernice, saying that they were a superior substitute for those of the goddess Artemis. But at the closed council Simon expressed concern that the house of Agrippa and especially Paul were conducting a contrary mission to theirs. They were claiming that Bernice was not a queen regnant, the position she was assumed to have in the east because of the failure of Agrippa to show any interest in his country.
Thomas proclaimed Bernice's authority in a dramatic way. At each hour, noon, 1 pm and 2 pm, when it was customary to announce the time from the platform over the monastery vestry, he stood to hail Bernice as the queen, identifying her with the goddess Artemis.
The house of Agrippa had come to attend the equinox council, hoping to restore unity, but were excluded from the council chamber and made to stand outside at the pillar bases used for pilgrims. At 1 pm Thomas had come down from the platform and was sitting at the council table on the ground floor of the vestry, in a setting like that of the stage of a Greek theatre. Outside at the pillar base Peter, who used the title Aristarchus when he was in Greece, made the first attempt at protest, backed up by James Niceta. They were both more in sympathy with Judaism than Paul, who was not permitted by them to speak. Peter made a denunciation of Simon Magus' financial practices, as he had always done. The house of Agrippa revealed its own disunity, and Agrippa himself, who was present, was too bewildered to know what to say.
Apollos, the deputy abbot to Matthew Annas, was known to be capable of some compromise with Jewish attitudes. He attempted to make a speech from the floor of the council chamber. But he was drowned out by Thomas' shout at 2 pm from the platform, "Bernice, who is an incarnation of Artemis, is queen!"
At 3 pm, when the laity could be addressed from the pillar base outside, Agrippa was prompted by his advisers to make a speech declaring that he himself had the authority of Rome as the rightful king. His succession was assured, not through Bernice but through Timothy, and after him his brother Tychicus. Agrippa upheld Matthew as the abbot with spiritual authority.
At the end of the council, the house of Agrippa were in effect driven out from Ephesus. Their future lay in Europe, especially in Greece, where intellectual rather than political interests found a home. Paul, having failed to meet Titus-Marsyas and Tamar-Phoebe in Troas, crossed to Macedonia, and spent the next six months in Greece.
But the challenge remained for Agrippa to prove that he was really king by showing some interest in his homeland. Matthew Annas and Peter wanted to remain in fellowhsip with their own countrymen, preserving the Jewish heritage of the past. In Romans chapters 9 to 11 Jesus had written, edited by Paul, of his deep desire that his countrymen should remain in the saved community. In March 58 the house of Agrippa set out for Jerusalem, intending to stay for only a short period before making another visit to Rome and further west. But in Jerusalem they had to deal with the consequences of their own dark side, a fatal error that would bring their first generation to an end.
The date January 1, 58 AD, was interpreted by Therapeuts led by Apollos as a year 38. It was in year 38 that, according to Deuteronomy 2:14, the miraculous crossing of the Jordan at the end of the Exodus took place. The Therapeuts continued to hope for a divine intervention to give them the Promised Land of political power at the end of a 40 years. Every time their hopes were disappointed they adjusted the date, beginning a new 40 years at a major event. The last disappointment they had had been in 44 AD, when Theudas, the Chief Therapeut at that time, had calculated that it was year 38 of the 40 years 6 to 46 AD, starting from the Roman occupation of 6 AD. Theudas had staged a mass political demonstration at the river Jordan opposite Jericho, expecting heaven to intervene with a miracle that would result in a fall of Jericho and a new highway to power in Jerusalem over the Romans. The procurator at that time, Fadus, was alerted, arrived with his troops, dispersed the crowd, arrested Theudas and had him executed. Thus ended the life of one of the great heroes of Judas the Galilean's resistance movement.
Another chronological landmark had been in 20 AD, counted as the beginning of the return of the Herodian monarchy. There was reason for treating the 40 years from 20 to 60 AD as the true Exodus, for 60 AD had been interpreted by John the Baptist as the year 4000 from creation, following an adjustment of the date of creation made in the reign of Herod the Great. The grand fulfilment, with political power in a Promised Land, would surely come in 60 AD. (In a sense - but not in the sense they had anticipated - this expectation did indeed come true, by their own agency.) The process should begin in 58 AD as the year 38.
Shortly before the beginning of the year, Apollos the Chief Therapeut rallied hundreds of supporters and attempted another "fall of Jericho". This time he treated Jerusalem itself as a symbolic Jericho, and began his attack from the Mount of Olives on the east, a kilometer across from the temple mount. Felix as the Roman procurator had no option but to send troops to quell the riot, killing hundreds and taking more as prisoners. But Apollos the Egyptian, head of the Therapeuts of Egypt, managed to escape and disappeared.The event is referred to in Acts 21:38, in a context showing that Paul was somehow associated with it. In that verse, the followers of the Egyptian are called Sicarii. The name was given from their use of large curved daggers called by the Romans sicae.
The usual rationalisation of a non-fulfilment was that heaven would not help while there was sin in the mission. The belief was useful to the leaders, who conducted a purge on each such occasion. Since the events in Ephesus Apollos was well aware that Jonathan Annas was a danger to the whole future of the Christian mission of Agrippa's house now that he had the ear of Poppea. Paul was also aware of it, having been informed by Seneca's letter. Jonathan could do further damage by telling what he knew about the "resurrection", which now meant so much to the Christians
Felix also had his reasons for dealing with the danger to Agrippa's house, to which he belonged by marriage. He had in fact allowed Apollos to escape from the fray, while necessarily punishing a political demonstration. Consistently with his other actions showing a lack of impartiality, he sent a message to Apollos to bring together his band of Sicarii, skilled killers for religious warfare.Felix paid a bribe to a trusted friend of Jonathan to ensure that Jonathan was in a certain place in Jerusalem at a certain time, and Apollos' Sicarii were brought in to attack him. In Josephus' words:
"Certain of these brigands (called Sicarii in Josephus' other account in Josephus, War 2, 254-257) went up to the city as if they intended to worship God. With daggers concealed under their clothes, they mingled with the people about Jonathan and assassinated him ...The murder remained unpunished."
Josephus, who shows no knowledge of the internal affairs of the mission, took it that the reason for the murder was that Felix bore a grudge against Jonathan "because of his frequent admonition to improve the administration of the affairs of Judea. For Jonathan feared that he himself might incur the censure of the multitude in that he had requested Caesar (Claudius) to dispatch Felix as procurator of Judea." That had been in 52, when Pallas was exercising power in the final years of Claudius, and Jonathan was working through him. The two Herodian houses were now in conflict and Jonathan had turned decisively against Felix, publicly criticizing his interpretation of his office.
Paul, at enmity with Jonathan Annas for longstanding reasons, was an instructor of Felix, who had the status of a Herod prince whom it was Paul's duty to teach. In the year 59 AD , in Acts 24:25, Paul is shown in dialogue with Felix, using the terms of Greek philosophy, "about justice and self-control and future judgment". There was reason for many within the leadership to suspect that Paul had incited Felix to the action, and had encouraged Apollos also.
At the time of the expulsion from Ephesus in September 57 Paul had written a letter to Titus-Marsyas, returned from Rome, whom he was appointing to the island of Crete, the center for Ham Gentiles. Paul instructed him to help certain missionaries who were passing through. "Do your best to speed Zenas the lawyer and Apollos on their way, see that they lack nothing." (Titus 3:13) Titus-Marsyas was a treasurer, as had been shown when he appeared as the Ethiopian in Acts 8:28. His order had a homeland base in Gaza, which means "treasury". When the matter was investigated later, there was reason for seeing in this letter an arrangement for Apollos to be given money to be used for the bribe to the man who betrayed Jonathan.
Paul himself, however, had an alibi for December-January 57-58, as he was in Macedonia with his wife. His second letter to the Corinthians made that clear. It was not until June 58, when he was in Jerusalem with Agrippa's house, that his association with the Egyptian was suspected.
The superior of Paul was Jesus, whom he always obeyed. At the cross, Jonathan had provided the means for Jesus to attempt suicide, acting, as Jesus knew, out of animosity for Jesus' claim to be a priest. Before that, there had been reason to suspect that Jonathan had been instrumental in the murder of Jesus' father Joseph in AD 23, on the orders of Agrippa I who returned to the homeland in that year. In the parable of the Sower, recording events from 20 BC to 30 AD, at a certain stage the "seed fell among thorns, which choked the Word" (Mark 4:7, 18-19). The "Thorns" were the Annas priests. When Paul spoke of the "thorn in his flesh" (2 Corinthians 12:7) he was referring to Jonathan Annas.
Ugly rumors began of the complicity of Jesus himself. They would increase during the next two years and come to a head just as the Christian party were about to find their fulfilment by entering Rome.
Following criticism of his part in the murder of a former high priest of Jerusalem, Felix again acted without due impartiality when another conflict arose in Caesarea, his administrative base.
There were now two opposing political forces among the native inhabitants of Caesarea, whom Josephus calls the Syrians and the Jews. The Jews in Caesarea were those who had settled there in the time of Herod the Great, looking to Jerusalem as their capital.
The Syrians were not Jews, but were natives of Phoenicia , coming from the Syrian cities of Tyre and Sidon. Many had come as far south as Caesarea, where they offered themselves for military service with the Romans.
In about March of 58 AD a quarrel broke out. "The Jews and Syrians took to casting stones at each other, until it came about that many on both sides were wounded and fell. Nevertheless, it was the Jews who carried the day." Felix intervened, summoned the Jews to desist, and when they took no notice he let his soldiers loose upon them, causing many deaths. "He also allowed his men to plunder certain houses of the inhabitants that were laden with very large sums of money." More moderate Jews protested and begged him to desist, and calm was restored for the time being.
In the house of Agrippa, Atomus, the pro-Herod Magian, was in sympathy with paganism, being called "Jason" when he conducted the Magian sea mission to Gentiles. He appears under that name as the representative of paganism in Acts 17:5-6. It was Atomus who by his "magic" had brought about the marriage of Felix and Drusilla, while not requiring Felix to become a Jew. Felix had personal reasons, therefore, for looking after the Syrians under Atomus and not assisting the Jews, including the house of Bernice. Such reasons were incompatible with the impartiality that his office required.
There was now evidence against Felix for two misdemeanors that Rome would not approve.
The visit of Agrippa's house to Jerusalem, Pentecost 58 AD
(Acts 21:17-40 & Acts 23:1-35 & Acts 24:1-27)
Josephus, Antiquities 20:182-184; Josephus, Antiquities 189-196.
At Pentecost of 58 AD the missionaries of the house of Agrippa arrived in Jerusalem, to meet the challenge of Bernice's house that Agrippa, its king, took no interest in Jerusalem and never went there. The party included Paul, whose wife Tamar-Phoebe gave birth to a son when the ship reached Tyre. Paul left her there while the men traveled south to the politically inflammable cities of Caesarea and Jerusalem.
Paul discharged one of his duties by going to Qumran, where James the brother of Jesus was the superior of the Poor, the Essene Ebionites. No money was now kept there, and they were always struggling for enough funds to continue eastern mission. In keeping with Jesus' desire to maintain fellowship with Jewish Christians, Paul had collected gifts of money for them while he was in Greece. He gave it to James, who asked him to show that he still observed the basic rules of the ascetics, giving alms to Nazirite mendicants. Paul did so, then went on to Jerusalem. He had been announcing in his last few letters that he intended to be in Jerusalem for Pentecost.
One of the party's reasons was that many still believed in a possible political triumph in the year 38, now recalculated to June 58 AD. They wanted to make sure that if it came it would involve Jerusalem too, to keep the mission together. But as soon as Paul arrived at the Cenacle building in Jerusalem he began to give offence, by disregarding the regulations designed to preserve the holiness of the location.
He had with him the three sons of Aristobulus, Timothy appointed crown prince and heir of Agrippa , and the next two brothers, using the names Tychicus and Trophimus. Timothy had turned 21, but had not yet reached the age of 23, that of the full initiation that was the qualification for participation in the sacred noon meal. Trophimus was even younger,in his teens. Paul allowed the two young men to stand on the pillar base outside the vestry room, where pilgrims were received. But as non-initiates they were not holy enough to be near even the outside precincts of the sacred meal chamber in the holy city of Jerusalem. Their father Aristobulus knew their ages and protested, for he was well aware of the Jerusalem rules and did not want to break them. His protest ensured that Paul was excluded from the chamber for the noon sacred meal.
Paul was obliged to make a defence of his doctrine in the afternoon after the meal was ended. He made a speech for an hour on the steps at the north of the vestry room leading up to the platform. In the course of it he gave one of his several accounts of his life and his conversion to the attitudes of Jesus. At the end of the speech Paul had still not convinced his opponents of his conformity to their views. Agrippa decided to send him to Caesarea, where he would be more useful if he took part in the defence of Felix, now being called to account by the Jewish priests for his misconduct over the Syrians.
Agrippa himself travelled to Caesarea and took part in the hearing, assisted by the legal skills of Paul, which had sufficient effect to have him released the following year. Jewish priests had no real authority over the representative of Rome. But the report of the matter was sent to Rome.
Agrippa's household stayed in the country for two further years, in order to work to regain for Agrippa the respect of the people for him as king. In early 60 AD, however, Poppea was persuaded to make a move.. Agrippina was now dead, and there was no longer any support for Agrippa's house in the Roman court. Poppea's advice to Nero was accepted, and Porcius Festus was appointed to come to Judea to arrest Felix and take over as the new procurator.
Festus arrived early in 60 AD, collected information against Felix, and made arrangements for him to be arrested and sail for Rome for trial in June. At the same time Agrippa lost further support from his people by a provocative action showing disrespect for the temple. In his palace in Jerusalem, next door to the temple, he built a high chamber that gave him a fine view over the city, and also enabled him to see down into the temple courtyard. But it was contrary to tradition for proceedings in the temple to be spied on, in particular the sacrifices of animals being slaughtered out in the open. The priests of the temple built a high wall to prevent it, blocking Agrippa's view of the city, and also preventing the Roman guards from supervising the temple. When Festus objected, it became necessary to send the matter to Rome. This was an additional reason why Agrippa went to Rome on board the ship that carried Felix. After they arrived in Rome a hearing was held on this matter also, and Nero decided in favor of the temple priests. "In this he showed favor to his wife Poppea, who was a worshipper of God and who pleaded on behalf of the Jews" ( Josephus, Antiquities 20, 193).
A final Pentecost celebration was held in Caesarea in June 60 , attended by Bernice and Agrippa appearing reluctantly together so that Agrippa's authority would be upheld. Paul made a speech in which he forced Agrippa to admit that he was a Christian, but was not sure which faction to support, that of Peter or that of Paul. Agrippa ended by mentioning to Festus the presence of Jesus, who would accompany them to Rome as a witness. He referred to Jesus as This Man, ho anthrōpos houtos, a term that always means Jesus in the pesher.
"This Man is a murderer."
Acts 27-28 (Acts 27:1-44 & Acts 28:1-31)
The company on board the ship included the leaders in the house of Agrippa, who were going to Rome as witnesses on behalf of Felix and at the same time to answer for Agrippa's action against the temple. Felix was the only prisoner. He was guarded by Thomas of the house of Bernice, who would act as prosecutor at his trial.
They first sailed north to Sidon, to which Tamar-Phoebe had moved with her children. Under a more relaxed dynastic rule Paul was permitted to visit his baby son after two years. He picked up his family to take them part way on the voyage, but would leave them to disembark in Lycia to travel to the greater safety of Philippi in Macedonia. Paul later wrote to his wife in Philippi, calling her "true yokefellow" and asking her to help other women leaders (Philippians 4:3)
Changing ships in Lycia, the party travelled south-west to the island of Crete, where there were mission stations for both the major parties on each end of the island. On the east end, at Fair Havens under the control of Agrippa's house, they observed the Day of Atonement. All were aware that this year, 60 AD, was on some calculations the year 4000 from creation. It might well see the grand Eschaton, if heaven saw fit to send it. On that great date there would be a catastrophe that would destroy all evil men and leave only the initiated members of the community to survive in a purified world.
Heaven would surely choose one of the Jewish festivals, the great days of the calendar. It did not come at Fair Havens, and they sailed on. At the west end of the island, under the control of Simon's Magians, they sensed danger from the "north-east wind", the Damascus party, who could make trouble for them in Rome. Sailing further west, their own different factions on board began to cause tension. The moralistic Apollos, egged on by James Niceta, gave expression to his view that Paul and Jesus were too liberal, without sufficient respect for the ethical norms for which the Annas priests were responsible.
On the eve of January 1, 61 AD, they reached the island of Malta. Their arrival is presented on the surface as a shipwreck. But there was no literal shipwreck, only the wreck of the hopes of those who had counted on the Eschaton by the end of the year. It was the end also of the mission structure that treated Gentiles as "unclean", to be baptized in salt water under the Noah imagery. Gentiles would no longer be treated as inferior. Further detail showed that it was at this stage that the architecture of a Christian church was adopted, having evolved out of the arrangements in monastic vestries.
The small island of Malta, at the south of Sicily and Italy, was treated as a clearing station for people wanting to enter and settle in Italy. Once they reached Malta, foreigners had to prove that they had no criminal convictions and were in other ways suitable to join the Roman population. The Christians in the house of Agrippa had accepted the invitation to travel as witnesses, having in mind an additional purpose. They believed that they were finished in the east, and wanted to make Rome, the capital of the empire, the center from which they would conduct a purely Christian mission.
Once they reached Myra, it had been possible to send a message to Rome by a more direct route, to Seneca the wise philosopher who still had some influence in the court. His affection for Paul had remained, and he was well aware, as his letters had shown, of the dangers for the Christians in Rome. But he could give invaluable help in clearing them for their entry. He was asked if he would meet them in Malta. There he appeared as "the barbarians" - a plural of reproduction for a singular - for he had remained a pagan, showing interest in Christianity simply as an alternate philosophy.
On Thursday January 1 61, following their dawn arrival at the Gentile abbey on the island, the applicants met with Seneca to prepare their case for admission.They included Paul and Jesus, who was accompanied by Luke, so giving rise to the use of "we" in the narrative of the voyage. Apollos and Thomas were in the party.
The surface story of Acts 28:1-10 says that on arrival on Malta in cold wet conditions Paul gathered a bundle of sticks and put them on the fire. A viper (echidna) came out because of the heat and fastened, as it appears, on his hand. When the barbarians (hoi barbaroi ) saw the "wild beast" (thērion) hanging from his hand, they made an accusation of murder. The "wild beast" (thērion) was shaken off. Those present waited, expecting him to swell up from the effects of poison, or suddenly fall down dead. But when nothing happened, they changed their minds and said that he was a god (theos).
It was not a case of pagan superstition and a miracle. The pesher gives vital information on the political history. In the course of the enquiry, Seneca, "the barbarians" used the words
Pantōs phoneus estin ho anthrōpos houtos hon diasōthenta ek tē s thalassēs hē dik ē zēn ouk eiasen.
On the face of it, it was a reference to Paul, who was apparently the person stung by the viper that had come out of the fire. For the pesharist, it means Jesus, who is always "This Man' ( ho anthrōpos houtos) throughout the pesher. It then begins to look as if Jesus really had instigated the murder of Jonathan Annas. However, when the pesharist takes into account the special meanings of all the terms and the historical setting, the following pesher is found:
"Murderer" had the special meaning of a zealot militant who was determined to fight against all evil - Romans or foreign religion - by shedding his blood in warfare if necessary. Theudas-Barabbas the Chief Therapeut of the gospel period was said to have committed murder in an uprising against Pilate (Mark 15:7). The ceremony at their communal sacred meal included putting a smear of blood on the cup of sacred wine. That was the role of the Messiah of Israel, Jesus, one of whose functions as a king was to be the Lion of Judah, a leader in war. Josephus' description of the zealots of 6 AD included their belief that "Heaven would be their zealous helper...(if they ) did not shrink from the bloodshed that might be necessary." Josephus shows how other Jews deplored their murderous methods. "These men sowed the seed of every kind of misery, which so afflicted the nation that words are inadequate." ( Josephus, Antiquities 18, 5-6).
The verb "to be", estin is used in the pesher in the sense of "become", following Hebrew usage. It does not mean simply a state of affairs; Greek may omit the verb when this is the meaning. It is used for becoming an initiate or entering a higher stage of promotion.
To be "saved out of the sea" means to be a Gentile who had undergone the "Noah" drama of initiation. The members of the orders of Shem, Ham, and Japheth retained their Gentile identity after being brought on board the boat, "Noah's ark" and carried up to the "dry land" of "salvation". There were Jews in the royal Herod house (the meaning of pantōs) who followed so many aspects of Gentile culture that they were seen as no different from Gentiles, who were "saved from the sea". But that caused them to be denied Jewish identity, so leading to the verdict that the granting of civic rights to Jews did not apply to them. As Seneca's letter to Paul indicated, the empress Poppea, responsible for Jewish matters as the leading Roman woman, had made a ruling to this effect. She was symbolised as "Justice".
A further indication of this meaning is in Josephus' report that at the time of the trial of Felix in 61AD "the leaders of the Syrians in Caesarea, by offering a large bribe, prevailed on Beryllus, who was Nero's tutor and had been appointed secretary of Greek correspondence, to apply for a rescript from Nero annulling the grant of equal civic rights for Jews". The rescript was granted. The Syrians, as has been seen, were the northerners from Phoenicia who had been helped by Felix, led by Atomus the pagan pro-Herod Magus.
The wording of the Malta story refers to a "viper" (echidna) and appears to call it also a "wild beast". Two different men are intended by the terms, both fastening on to a "hand", that is the collection plate for the Poor, standing for the money of the ascetic community. Both wanted it for their form of mission. The "viper" was Thomas, whose skills with women were like a "viper in the bosom".
The "wild beast" was Apollos, the Chief Therapeut in Agrippa's house, leader of the Sicarii who had murdered Jonathan Annas. The Chief Therapeut could act as a substitute for the Lion of Judah. Apollos would be implicated in the trial of Felix, who had arranged the assassination through him. He now took the step that caused Paul to write later " Alexander the coppersmith did me great harm; the Lord will requite him for his deeds" (2 Timothy 4:14). "Alexander" was a title of the Chief Therapeut from Alexandria in Egypt, used previously of Theudas (Mark15:21). He was a "coppersmith" because the fees were paid in gold, silver or copper according to the income of initiates. Apollos now informed the hearing that it was not only he and Felix who had brought about the assassination. Paul had been behind it, even though he had an alibi.
The evidence against Paul was accepted. Any implication that the influence of Jesus, "This Man" lay behind Paul was rejected. There was every reason to dismiss it. He had published the passage in Romans 12:19-21 in which he strongly advised against revenge. He had had 28 years to take action against Jonathan Annas for giving him the poison, and he had not done so. During the gospel period he had co-operated with Jonathan in the advancement of Gentiles, even though he knew that the "Thorns" had choked the Word, his father. Jesus, a clear and intelligent thinker, would not have taken such a damaging action as to initiate the assassination, whereas Paul, blinded by devotion to him and already disliking Sadducees, was capable of it.
So Seneca "changed his mind and said that he (Jesus) was a god, theos ." The word theos without the definite article meant the servant of God, one who was himself a divine being. The opening words of John's gospel were being endorsed "the Word was a god" (John 1:1). Such a definition was readily accepted by Gentiles, who held the political myth that the emperor was a god. For those like Seneca, close to Nero, who knew that the reality of the emperor was far different, it was a better myth to apply it to one who was morally far more worthy. But it did mean that Jesus became a direct rival to the emperor. In Rome, that belief made for the political demonstrations that a few years later gave Nero his reason to attempt to abolish them.
In mid-year Nero held the trial of Felix. Josephus reports that "(Felix) would undoubtedly have paid the penalty for his misdeeds against the Jews had not Nero yielded to the urgent entreaty of Felix's brother Pallas, whom at that time he held in the highest honor". ( Josephus, Antiquities 20, 182.) All were cleared, and permitted to continue their mission in Rome, until Pallas fell out of favor.
On Monday March 2 61 AD the party on Malta had boarded another ship bound for Rome. After 21 hours' sailing they reached Syracuse in south Sicily, then after calling in at Rhegium at the tip of Italy they sailed up the west coast, reaching Puteoli the half-way point on Monday March 9. They finally arrived at the port of Rome in the evening of Friday March 20, the anniversary of Good Friday. That was 28 years from 33 AD, in a year when both the 31sts and the Julian dates were repeated.
After observng the sabbath at the port, they travelled up the Via Appia, and on Sunday March 22, the day on which they were now commemorating the resurrection, they arrived at Agrippa's house, the Vineyard or Tavern 3, just inside the south surrounding wall of Rome. The climax for Jesus, referred to as "we" in the company of Luke, was expressed in the simple sentence, "and so we came to Rome". It was a resurrection indeed, a new start for a new version of the Jewish religion in the capital of the world empire.
Paul had been arrested once the evidence was accepted that he had been complicit with Felix. But he was less culpable than Felix and Apollos, who were sent to a Roman prison. Agrippa agreed to act as surety for Paul, and he was kept in custody in chains in the basement of Agrippa's house, called the praetorium.
Paul's letters from prison
The hearing before Nero would be held in June. To employ his time usefully, Paul sent letters to the communities in Asia Minor whom he had served for six years. It had long been the custom for the scattered communities to be kept together by such letters from their bishops, expounding the doctrine and reminding them of the code of behaviour to which they were committed. The letters were read out at their meetings, and were given the status of a form of scripture, to be added to the readings from the Old Testament.
In the confinement of Agrippa's house, Paul was visited often by Timothy, the Herod crown prince, his former pupil, who had accompanied them on the ship voyage. Paul, now publicly without authority, needed authorisation for his pastoral letters, and Timothy agreed that he should use his name in the form of address. Three letters were written during this period using Timothy's name with that of Paul: Philemon and Colossians to the province of Asia, and Philippians to Macedonia. In each of them Paul sent greetings from others resident in Agrippa's house who were not confined: Peter, using the title Aristarchus, who was now bishop of all Gentiles under the authority of Jesus; Ananus the Younger the Merari, called Demas as he represented the demos, the congregation, performing the actual guard work on behalf of Agrippa; and Luke, whose presence meant the presence of Jesus, who could not be named in a letter to the ordinary congregation.
A man named Epaphras is named in these three letters, given special praise by Paul. He came from the church in Colosse. He does not correspond to anyone on board the ship, and it appears that he was appointed as deputy abbot to Matthew in place of Apollos, who was now at enmity with Paul and imprisoned elsewhere.In the letter to Philippians he is said to have been sent to them because he was "ill, near to death". After that he is not mentioned. He may have been already a leader of the pilgrims who were received in Agrippa's house, was appointed to replace Apollos, then came under some suspicion as sharing the views of the Therapeuts, the Sicarii, threatened with excommunication or "death". He was consequently sent to Philippi, which functioned as a place of retreat, a marriage house where women could give leadership.
Another letter was written at this time, to the Ephesians, that is to Agrippa's house in Ephesus with its attached abbey. It addresses only the "saints", the celibates. Its doctrinal content, arguing for the breaking down of the barrier between Jews and Gentiles, is characteristic of the theology of Jesus expressed in his Epsitle to Romans. It does not mention Timothy in the address, and since it was written in the period when Timothy was present, it may be supposed that it was another work composed by Jesus and issued in Paul's name.
Both the letter to the Colossians and the letter to the Ephesians were carried to their destinations by Tychicus. He was the next brother of Timothy, a junior Herod prince, named with those who travelled with Agrippa's house since 58 AD (Acts 20:4). He was now appointed to Ephesus as a replacement for Timothy, and he would take the letters with him. The next brother, Trophimus, had been left at Miletus south of Ephesus at the time of the journey to Rome, as noted in 2 Timothy 4:20. He also was subject to persecution, being the cause of the attack by Jews in the Cenacle building in Jerusalem (Acts 21:29), so was said to be "ill".
At the hearing before Nero in June 61 AD , Felix was acquitted due to the persuasion of his rich brother Pallas. Consequently Apollos was freed, and remained to be attacked later by Paul as "Alexander the coppersmith, who did me great harm" . Paul as their suspected associate was also freed.
Paul was now able to fulfil the ambition he had expressed in Romans 15:24, to go to Spain after he had been to Rome. Above the straits of Gibraltar, it stood at the limit of the Mediterranean and was regarded as one of the boundaries of the known earth. A passage in the Acts of Peter turns to Paul, depicting the scene of his departure for Spain, with the farewells and ceremonies of his friends. He would be absent for no more than a year. The dates of this period indicate that he was absent between 62 and 63 AD.
Clement of Rome remarked that Paul had taught righteousness to all the world, and had reached "the limit of the west"(to terma tēs dyseōs). It is not impossible that Paul's year in Spain included a visit to Britain, which was at that time under the Roman governor Aulus Didius. This is suggested by the names Claudia and Pudens in Paul's last letter, written on his return (2 Timothy 4:21). They were among his friends in Rome. It has been pointed out that the Roman epigrammatist Martial, who came to Rome in 66, wrote of 'Claudia, of azure-painted Britons born', and her husband Pudens.
Ananus the Younger, who as the servant of Agrippa acted as the "jailer", the Merari or Demas, had returned to Jerusalem with Agrippa II after the hearing was over, reaching the homeland at the end of 61 AD. In the following year Agrippa appointed him high priest of the temple, in the succession of the five Sadducee Annas brothers. He lasted only three months, having performed a deed that supplies one of Josephus' references to Jesus and the Jewish Christians. Taking advantage of the change of procurators before a new one arrived,
"He (Ananus) convened the judges of the Sanhedrin and brought before them a man called James the brother of Jesus, who was called the Christ, and certain others. He accused them of having transgressed the law and delivered them up to be stoned." Some of the citizens, however, regarded this as an abuse of his office, made a complaint to Agrippa , and had him dismissed ( Josephus, Antiquities 20, 200-203.
The story of the stoning of James is expanded in the Christian literature, in the hagiographic account of Hegesippus. Its actual motive would have been the continued attacks by James on the legitimacy of Jesus, that were revived whenever Jesus' party was appearing to lose credit. In Jerusalem the Jewish Christians were regarded as a threat to orthodoxy, and Ananus was able to rely on their unpopularity there.
It was usual for the Annas priests who had fallen out with Jerusalem to go into exile in the Diaspora. As is implied in 2 Timothy 4:10, Ananus as Demas came back to Rome to Agrippa's house. There he joined Paul after Paul's return from Spain in 63. By the end of that year Paul wrote "Demas, in love with the present world, has deserted me and gone to Thessalonica." Foreseeing the troubles that were about to befall the Christians, he went to Macedonia, to the house of the Herod princes in Thessalonica.
Pallas the brother of Felix had retained sufficient influence to be able to obtain an acquittal in 61 AD. But he too fell out of favor, and when he died in 62 it was believed that Nero was responsible for his death. The consequence was that those he had protected were re-arrested. Paul, on his return from Spain in the summer of 63, was again arrested and confined to Agrippa's house awaiting trial. Timothy had been sent away to Ephesus.
Jesus was kept in seclusion elsewhere in Rome, not under arrest. In his letter to Timothy written at this time Paul sent the coded message "The Word of God is not fettered." (2 Timothy 2:9). It was typical of the style of pesher, with an innocent moral text conveying also a political fact. Jesus often sent Luke to convey his messages of comfort and support to Paul, who wrote "only Luke is with me". Others had been sent away to mission houses in Asia Minor.
In mid 63 Paul wrote his final known letter, 2 Timothy. He recognized that he would have no chance when it came to the hearing, even though at the first hearing he had been acquitted. At that time the Lord had stood by him, and like a Daniel he was "rescued from the lion's mouth", the Roman emperor. He could still express a hope that the Lord would rescue him and "save me for his heavenly kingdom". But he also wrote of his readiness for death. "I am already on the point of being sacrificed; the time of my departure has come. I have fought the good fight. I have kept the faith".
He was writing to ask Timothy to come to him before winter, the overt reason to bring a cloak and some books and parchments. He may have had a faint hope that Timothy could influence the Roman court in the name of the Jewish kings whom Rome wished to protect. His letter would take three months to reach Ephesus, so Timothy taking another three months would arrive in Rome in the winter.
In early 64 AD matters came to a head for all the parties concerned. Nero became aware of an alien society that was gaining considerable influence in Rome,one that had been protected by Pallas and Seneca .Pallas was dead and Seneca out of favor. In that year the Christians showed their hand. It was, for those relying on the prophecies of the solar calendar, the year 4000 from creation, in its south solar + 3 1/2 version. The Eschaton giving them supreme power had not come in 60, but it would surely come now, or so they were convinced. They would have held another of their public demonstrations, like the one at a previous significant date that had caused them to be expelled from Rome. Now the demonstrators were arrested and thrown into prison.
The Roman authorities made no distinction between the different factions of the mission, all of which followed the solar calendar. Simon Magus the Samaritan was in rivalry with the house of Agrippa and its Christians, but that made no difference to the courts, who only knew that this society intended subversive action against Rome. The whole solarist community should be exterminated.
The first reaction to the danger came from Simon Magus. Always relying on claims of magic, performing stunts of various kinds to attract the masses to his monasteries, he now staged a grand performance from a wooden tower, claiming that he could fly. It surely would convince the population of the mission's protection by heaven. But Peter's faction, which also claimed miracles but of a more edifying kind, exposed his trickery, spoke to the men operating the pulleys that kept his concealed platform afloat, and brought him crashing down to earth. "Thus Simon, the angel of the devil, ended his life." The story is recorded in the Acts of Peter. (See Acts of Peter in our Section 4, on Simon's death.)
Peter continued his mission for a short time, and according to the account in the Acts of Peter he earned further hostility from the husbands of the leading women of Rome, who were refusing sex because of the influence of the mission. They followed the tradition of Antonia, who had been a patron of Agrippa I, and who was said to have retained her virtue by not remarrying after her husband's death. Women in Rome "fell in love with the doctrine of purity and separated from their husbands, and men too ceased to sleep with their own wives, since they wished to worship God in sobriety and purity". Although this record obscures much that also motivated the mission, it does show what was the essential reason for its success. It offered a remedy through the discipline of celibacy for the unrestrained profligacy of Roman high society.
When a charge was laid against Peter on these grounds, and the imprisonment of Christians following the riots lost him further credit, he was advised by his friends to leave Rome. At first he refused to act like a deserter, but then yielded to his friends' entreaties to save himself for the sake of the mission. In the words of the Acts of Peter:
"So he assented to the brethren and withdrew by himself, saying, 'Let none of you retire with me, but I shall retire by myself in disguise' And as he went out of the gate he saw the Lord entering Rome, and when he saw him he said, 'Lord, where are you going here?" (In Latin, domine quo vadis). And the Lord said to him, 'I am coming to Rome to be crucified.' And Peter said to him, 'Lord, are you being crucified again?' He said to him, 'Yes, Peter, I am being crucified again.' And Peter came to himself, and he saw the Lord ascending into heaven; then he returned to Rome rejoicing and giving praise to the Lord, because he said, 'I am being crucified'; since this was to happen to Peter."
The entrance to Rome was from the south, up the Via Appia Antica. A kilometer south of the south wall, at the point where the south-north Via Appia joins the east-west road called the Circonvallazione Ardeatina, there still stands the church that came to be called Domine Quo Vadis, associated with this "vision".
The whole southern part of Rome south of the wall was the unclean area of the city, containing the network of underground catacombs for the burial of the dead. Their labyrinth of long corridors with shelves for the caskets also offered a hiding place from authority. Christians in particular used these chambers, thinking of them as corresponding to the burial caves at Qumran .
At times of political danger such as had now begun, it was essential that Jesus should be protected, and he would have been hiding there, kept well informed of the movements of his followers. The church stood at the northern part of the catacomb area, and there would be no difficulty in having an entrance up to it from the underground. Knowing of the imprisonment of Christians, Jesus would have decided to give himself up, rather than damage the future reputation of the mission by abandoning them. In the church that came to be called Domine Quo Vadis, where he normally met with his followers under the guise of a religious service, he met with Peter. Peter after intense discussion with him now saw what he must do, offer himself in the place of Jesus to be crucified. It would atone for his original desertion of Jesus at his crucifixion, and leave Jesus to exercise the leadership that the continuing mission needed. Peter turned round and went back.
He was arrested, charged with irreligion, and brought to the place where he was to be crucified. According to the hagiographic record of the Acts of Peter he made a speech and asked to be crucified head downwards. When his request was granted he made another long speech pointing out the symbolism of his position.
He continued to attract Romans to his teaching, including a man named Patroclus, whom he initiated, "raised from the dead". Patroclus was the cupbearer of Nero, who was told of the young man's conversion and sent for him for questioning. Patroclus declared that he was a follower of "Christ Jesus, the king of the ages." It was the term "king" that aroused Nero's ire. He asked, "So he is to be king of the ages, and destroy all the kingdoms?" When Patroclus gave fervent testimony that Jesus would rule the world, Nero struck him on the face. Some others in Nero's court also came forward and confessed their faith in Jesus.
The next stages were inevitable. Nero shut these courtiers up in prison, had them tortured, and commanded that other Christians should be sought out, and if found should be put to death.
Among these Paul their teacher was brought and was questioned by Nero about his political intentions. Nero issued orders that all Christians already in prison should be burned with fire, and that Paul should be beheaded. After an appeal by supporters that Nero rejected, Paul was taken to his place of execution , still preaching to his captors. "Then Paul stood with his face to the east, and lifting up his hands to heaven prayed at length; and after communing in prayer in Hebrew with the fathers he stretched out his neck without speaking further," and was beheaded. Further hagiographic details followed in the record. According to The Acts of the Holy Apostles Peter and Paul, Paul was executed on the Ostesian road. That work gives a date for the almost simultaneous deaths of Peter and Paul, on the 29th of June.
It was on July 19, AD 64, that large parts of Rome went up in fire. There had previously been similar fires, for which it was well known that Nero was responsible. On March 28 AD 64 Seneca had written to Paul, "As regards fire, it is clear as the day at whose hands the Roman capital has to suffer it so often". Nero's purpose, carried out with characteristic cruelty, was to rebuild Rome on a better plan, with wider streets, as he subsequently did.
The Roman historian Tacitus (Annals 15, 44) writes of what happened following the great fire in July destroying most of the ordinary wooden buildings in Rome:
"But all the endeavors of men, all the emperor's largesse and the propitiations of the gods, did not suffice to allay the scandal or banish the belief that the fire had been ordered. And so, to get rid of this rumor, Nero set up as the culprits and punished with the utmost refinement of cruelty a class hated for their abominations, who are commonly called Christians. Christus, from whom their name is derived, was executed at the hands of the procurator Pontius Pilate in the reign of Tiberius. Checked for the moment, this pernicious superstition again broke out, not ony in Judea, the source of the evil, but even in Rome, that receptacle for everything that is sordid and degrading from every quarter of the globe, which there finds a following.
"Accordingly, arrest was first made of those who confessed; then, on their evidence, an immense multitude was convicted, not so much on the charge of arson as because of hatred of the human race. Besides being put to death they were made to serve as objects of amusement; they were clad in the hides of beasts and torn to death by dogs; others were crucified, others set on fire to serve to illuminate the night when daylight failed. Nero had thrown open his ground for the display, and was putting on a show in the circus, where he mingled with the people in the dress of a charioteer or drove about in his chariot. All this gave rise to a feeling of pity, even towards men whose guilt merited the most exemplary punishment; for it was felt that they were being destroyed not for the public good but to gratify the cruelty of an individual."
Jesus, who had suffered enough, had been persuaded to keep out of the conflict in order to continue to direct the mission that they were all sure would continue. He remained in Rome, which was now their headquarters. He would have spent part of his time in the catacombs, but when the opportunity allowed it put himself into the care of the man who was the successor of Peter as bishop to Gentiles. This was Clement, the author of the Clementines, which are to be accepted as genuine history. Born 10 AD, he was the younger brother of James Niceta and John Aquila. In 61 he was in safety in Philippi, where Paul referred to him in Philippians 4:3.
In Rome, only a few blocks away from the Colosseum which was built in 79 AD, there still stands St Clement's church, which was a Christian church from the very earliest centuries. It is possible to go down through its successive layers, built up through the centuries, to the very lowest floor. There still may be seen there an altar to the god Mithras, depicted killing the bull.
Mithraism was the widespread popular religion of the Roman armies. The building had originally been a private home in the fashionable district of Rome, where a domestic shrine in honor of the owner's religion stood. It is reasonable to suppose that it was originally the home of Clement, who had remained with his distinguished family related to the imperial court. He had become Christian, as his story records, but while this was still a private matter he had left the shrine standing. It would be in his house that Jesus was at times a guest. A little imagination can see him moving about in disguise, wearing the hooded cloak that monastics adopted when they were in the outside world.
The Book of Revelation has a pesher following the same rules as the gospels. Its overall appearance is that it is an account of visions in heaven. The Platonic theory that what was done on earth was done also in heaven, alluded to in Matthew 16:18-19 in relation to Peter, supplied a means of offering to insiders an account of what was actually happening on earth. It mainly concerns the church in the Herodian royal house in Ephesus, reflecting the tumultuous events in the homeland in the years of the war, 66 to 70 AD, that brought about the destruction of Jerusalem. In contains a detailed chronology, given through its sets of sevens, which refer to even periods of time. In a passage that the chronology shows to be set in 73 AD, Revelation 19:11-16, a figure appears, sitting on a white horse. "His name by which he is called is the Word of God ...He will rule the nations with a rod of iron. ....On his robe and on his thigh he has a name inscribed, King of kings and Lord of lords." He is Jesus Justus, the son of Jesus, now aged 36 in AD 73, the age for the wedding of a dynast. He was already king, having succeeded his father. A reference to Jesus in Revelation 17:14, as the Lamb, Lord of lords and King of kings, for the year 70 AD, shows that Jesus in that year had come to Ephesus for a council to deal with the consequences of the greatest crisis of all, the fall of Jerusalem. He was then aged 76. Between the years 70 and 73, then, Jesus had died. It is not difficult to believe that his bones - always preserved according to the ascetics' custom - were put in the casket that had held Peter's bones. That casket, blue with silver filigree decoration, was finally placed under the high altar of St Peter's basilica in Rome, and is still to be seen there.
Information from this page is subject to copyright at:|
The Pesher Technique web site (with frames)