Brother AACOOLDRE : Josephus & Decius Mundus (Anubis)

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  1. AACOOLDRE

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    JOSEPHUS’S KNOWLEDGE OF CHRISTIANITY: THE DECIUS MUNDUS PUZZLE (2014)

    By Jerry Russell PHD

    This essay is part of Russell’s introduction to Joe Atwill’s book Shakespeare’s Secret Messiah

    While many scholars acknowledge that the Gospel authors were aware of Josephus, the topic of whether Josephus knew anything about Jesus Christ or Christianity is far more controversial, and has been an endless topic of debate,

    What is widely acknowledged is that two brief, famous passages in Josephus’s Antiquities of the Jews specifically mention the Biblical Jesus. In one of these, known as the “Testimonium Flavianum” (18, Chapter 3, 63,64), Josephus states that one Jesus (The Christ) was crucified under Pontius Pilate, but appeared alive “to those that loved him” after an interval of three days. This seems to be a clear enough statement of the basic tenets of the Christian faith, but the endless debate goes on over whether Josephus really said all these things, or whether the passage (or some part of it) was a late interpolation by pious scribes of the early Christian era.

    In the other passage, Josephus briefly mentions “…the brother of Jesus, who was called Christ, whose name was James…” (Ant 20, 9, 200). Again, this seems to indicate that Josephus was well aware of Jesus Christ, although there is some debate about what Josephus meant by “Christ” or whether those few words might have been a late interpolation.

    The vexing aspect of this, which is (or should be) so confounding to faithful believers, is that Josephus could have known this much about Christ and Christianity-and yet have said so little more about it. During the period between 30AD and 70AD, the years at the heart of Josephus’s historical tale-were Christ’s disciples not hard at work in Judea, growing their church, doing great miracles, and generally promulgating their proud and excitingly novel religious faith? How could Josephus have been aware of this, and yet not dedicated at least a few chapters to giving his views of this “good news” ? Josephus was certainly never at a loss for words, in describing any other popular Jewish sect of the time.

    Joe Atwill argues that Josephus did indeed have an intimate knowledge of Christian narratives and theology, and that he referred to it often. However, instead of speaking plainly, Josephus wrote vicious satires of Christianity; and these satires were often placed within typological (one character based upon another) parallels in the New Testament. Or in the case of the Testimonium Flavianum, Atwill argues that it can be recognized as genuine it its entirety, because it can be seen as part of a literary triptych, sandwiched alongside two enigmatic satires built on New Testament themes. Briefly stated: in the central satire, a rogue named Decius Mundus pretends to be the god Anubis (dog-headed Jackal), in order to trick a dignified lady named Paulina into having sex with her. The name ‘Decius Mundus’ is a pun on Decius Mus, the famous Roman war hero who gave himself as a sacrifice in battle to guarantee the Roman victory in war. Mundus means ‘World’, so Decius Mundus is a ‘Sacrifice for the World’. Paulina and her husband, Saturninus, laughably agree that making love to a God would be no sin against Paulina’s chastity. So, Paulina and Mundus enjoy a night together, but then Mundus returns on the third day to boast that he is no God, much to Paulina’s chagrin. In the other pedimental satire, a woman named Fulvia (whose husband’s name again is Saturnius) is persuaded by the three men to send her wealth to the Jewish temple; but in reality, the three men [spoof of the three magi’s?] spend the money “for their own uses”. In the first satire, Mundus is an ‘antitype’ of Jesus; in the second, the three men represent the Roman Trinity. The two stories are, of course, typologically coupled to each other as well, as they both tell essentially the same tale of a dignified lady with a husband named Saturninus who is tricked by a religious swindle. The choice to use the name ‘Paulina’ in the story may be a hint that the Romans viewed the original St. Paul, the author of the epistles, as a feminized victim of the swindle as well. [there is a hint of this in Paul’s letter Paul (Paulina) states that his private parts were mutilated (Philippians 3:2-9) by a Dog (Anubis was Dog-headed and Emperor Domitian wore its mask and was known to “scorch prisoners genitals].

    Strangely enough, the fact that the Testimonium Flavianum tryptich was a satire of Christianity was apparently understood as early as 4th century by the Christian author pseudo Hegesippus, whose Latin paraphrase of Josephus elaborated on the satire by having Paulina and Mundus discuss the possibility of a pregnancy, thus making her into a parody of the Virgin Mary. This was pointed out by Albert A Bell in his 1976 paper Josephus the Satirist? http;//dx.doi.org/10.2307/1454525)”, who mentioned that a 1927 paper (Turned into a book The Testimony of Josephus to Christianity) by Clyde Pharr had also fingered the Josephus passage about Paulina and Mundus as a parody of the Annunciation. Bell, however, withheld his own judgment on the matter, stating:

    [The view that Josephus was a satirist] has the decided disadvantage of being quite subjective. We must assume, on the basis of our own reactions, that the story of Paulina and Mundus appeared to Josephus as a parody of sorts of the Annunciation story and that he could depend on his readers to draw the same parallel. Lacking even a hint of literary evidence to support it, we are justifiably hesitant to accept this suggestion.

    I can only hope that bell was being ironic himself with this brief, dry spoof of hidebound academic caution and humorlessness-especially after having titled his paper with the bold assertion of Josephus’s comedic aspect, hedged only with a question mark. However, I note with some discouragement that Bell’s argument disappeared with hardly a ripple (three obscure mentions in the English language since 1976, in the Google scholar citation index); this in spite of its obvious and even decisive relevance to the endless academic debate about the Testimonium Flavianum.


    Appendix:

    Another Annunciation scene can be viewed on the walls of Luxor carved in 1380BC showing evidence of the Trinity, the Annunciation, the Immaculate conception, the virgin birth and the Adoration, everything Christianity plagiarized from the ancient Egyptians.

    See below on next page:

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