Brother AACOOLDRE : Josephus the satirist: joke on the Annuciation


Well-Known Member
Jul 26, 2001



By Albert A. Bell Jr. Durham, North Carolina Jewish Quarterly Review (1976) ( access if you want the footnotes of Bell. Bell’s quotes in Greek will appear as four xxxx’s. all info in brackets are my insertion A.Austin.

“There are few passages extant in any ancient author, which have been more frequently, or perhaps with greater shew of reason, the subject of debate, than the account supposed to be given of Christ by Josephus in the eighteenth book of his Antiquities of the Jews”. So wrote Nathaniel Forster in 1749. The debate has hardly slackened in the intervening two centuries. The two extreme positions are that the entire passage (Ant 18, 63-64) is a fabrication, as R. Eisler, E. Norden, and others assert, or that it is genuine as it stands, as F.C Burkitt, A.G Harnack and F. Dornseiff argue.

In true Hegelian fashion a synthesis also emerges in the position that Josephus made some unfavorable mention of Jesus at this point which a pious Christian scribe altered. Since Origen in the mid-third century says that Josephus did not think Jesus was the Christ, while Eusebis and all subsequent Christian writers cite the passage in its present form, it is generally conceded that the Testimonium Flavianum , whatever its original content, took the shape in which we know it in the late third or early fourth century. S Zeitlin even identifies Eusebius himself as the author of the passage.

The passage does have some Josephan stylistic characteristics and, if it’s a fabrication, is one of the better ones of antiquity. But “the most probable view”, as L.H. Feldman concludes, is that our text is basically Josephus with Christian alterations. This raises the perplexing question of what Josephus had originally said that so offended some Christian scribe that he felt compelled to alter it. Most scholars reconstruct the passage with a neutral tone, to this effect: “Jesus lived at about this time, a notable teacher who was reputed to have performed miracles. He was put to death by the procurator Pontius Pilate”. As a devout Pharisee Josephus could have said something of this sort. But would the Christians have felt it necessary to tamper with it? Tacitus (Annals XV,44) says nothing any more offensive about Jesus, and a Testimonium Cornelianum would have carried great weight in apologetic arguments in the first few centuries. Even Tacitus statement that Jesus died per procuratorem Pilatum did not evoke the Nicene response et resurrexit tertia die which one might expect from Christians determined to embellish any and all references to Jesus. His inoffensive, though accurate, statement was allowed to stand, as was Suetonius casual reference, while Josephus was altered. The latter must therefore have been more anti-Christian than most of the proposed emendations.

A suggestion made some years ago Clyde Pharr (The Testimony of Josephus to Christianity 1927 John Hopkins Press) about the original form of the Testimonium Flavianum has gone unnoticed, but it seems to me to have merit and I would like to bring it up (Resurrect) again in order to cite some supporting evidence of which Pharr apparently was unaware.

Pharr notes that the context of the Testimonium Flavianum as it now stands is almost as great a problem as its own content. It breaks into a chronological account by the scandalous story of Paulina’s (Turned into St. Paul later) seduction by the knight Mundus in Rome in 19AD. What possible connection, scholars have often asked, can there be between Jesus and this salacious episode? Since the Paulina/Mundus story deals with a woman tricked into having sexual relations with a man posing as (Anubis-dog head) a God, Pharr concluded that Josephus had originally made some derogatory reference to Jesus alleged virgin birth which called this tale to mind and led him to insert it in order to ridicule the Christian claim. [Its either Jesus was born of a donkey, a mule that was naturally barren/sterile, a rape or a trick or like Plutarch records that the Egyptians believe it is not possible for the spirit of God to have intercourse with a woman see The Mystery religions By S. Angus p.113 and see Joe Atwill’s chapter 13 on The ***-headed Christ in his monumental book Shakespeare’s Secret Messiah:

Discovered in Rome of Jesus as a Donkey. Well after all Jesus being born in a manager is a box or trough with hay in it for horses or calf’s. And Horus was the Golden Calf in Exodus and maybe Jesus too as a cruel joke, parody of Vespasian who got the nickname “The mule driver”.

This explanation has the advantage of letting Josephus remain a Jew in his attitude toward Jesus and of making his arrangement of material more logical. It 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 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.

But it can be shown that at least one reader of josephus did make just such association. In the late fourth century a Christian known by the pseudonym hegesippus wrote in Latin a work in five books on the fall of Jerusalem, adapted largely from Josephus Bellum Judaicum . But he also incorporated other material, such as the Quo vadis story, for which he is one of our earliest extant sources. In II, 12.I he retells the story of Paulina and Mundus as an example of the Ludibrium typical of the Rome which killed Christ. But he modifies the narrative in significant ways.

In Josephus longer version Paulina first refuses a large sum of money for her favors. Then Mundus maidservant Ide arranges the bribe the priests of Isis, to whose cult Paulina is devoted, to summon her to their temple on the pretext that the god Anubis desires her company. She goes gladly and with her husband’s (Saturninus, a pun on Saturnalia a festival in December, from which Christmas originated), permission and spends an eventful night with the disguised Mundus playing he’s Anubis. The next day she rushes out excitedly to tell her lady friends the glad tidings. When Mundus confronts her with the truth she is, of course, shamed. Her husband reports the incident to Tiberius, who crucifies the priests, cast their cult image into the Tiber river, and burns their Temple to the ground.

Hegesippus sums up Ant 18, 65-71 in only eight lines, omitting Mundus’s original offer to Paulina and Ide’s role. The priests are bribed at once and Paulina comes to the Temple. The love-making scene takes on comic aspects: xxxxxxx



Hegesippus then introduces the element of pregnancy, which is altogether lacking in josephus: xxxxxxxxxxxxxx. To the Christian audience for whom he was writing this must surely have suggested the Annunciation in Luke I. The words to describe Paulina’s reaction (Illa deum credidit, beatam se adserit), when compared to certain phrases in Luke Gospel, heighten this impression. Elizabeth, for example, says to Mary, beata, quae credidish (Luke 1:44), and in the Magnificat Mary sings: ex hoc beatam me dicent omnes generations (1:48) there is additional similarity to Mary going to Elizabeth immediately after the visitation, just as we saw that Paulina had done. [Nobody has considered that Elizabeth and Mary are cousins is the personification of Isis and Nephthys are sisters. Both Nephthys and Elizabeth are one and the same. For example:

1. Osiris has sex with Nephthys thinking she is Isis and gives birth to Anubis

2. Paulina has sex with Mundus thinking he’s Anubis

3. Both Elizabeth and Nephthys are both barren

4. Association of Christmas with husband name as Saturninus with a story of three men who keep gifts for themselves a spoof of the three kings giving a gift/money?

5. Nephthys birth associated with Melilote & Christmas associates with a Mistletoe a plant Pliny the Elder says was used to treat barren animals see Natural History.

6. All women are associated with Venus

7. Elizabeth birth to John the Baptist who’s a personification of Anubis is well known

8. Paul (Paulina) states that his private parts were mutilated (Philippians 3:2-9) by a Dog (Anubis from which Domitian wore his mask and known to “Scorch his prisoners genitals” see Suetonius (Dom 10)

Points 1, 3, 5 and 6 can be found in Plutarch’s Isis and Osiris]

It would seem then that Hegesippus responded to the Paulina/Mundus story as if it were a parody of the Annunciation. It would strengthen this argument if he could be shown to have consciously engaged in parody at some other point in his work. And in at least one passage he certainly appears to have done so. In De excidio I, 18 he follows closely the Josephan account (BJ I, 61) of Hyrcanus bribing Antiochus VII Sidetes to raise his siege of Jerusalem. But he describes the withdrawing Antiochus as pretio emptus, the very phrase used in 1 Cor 6:20 and 7:23 of the person “redeemed” from sin. One’s suspicion of a literary joke is heightened when Hegesippus adds that reppulit Hyrcanus auro Quem ferro nequibat. Ennis had praised Manius, conqueror of the Samnites and Pyrrhus, in strikingly similar clause: Quem nemo ferro potuit superare nec auro. The use of both phrases, originally applied with very positive connotations, in this shameful context of a bribe is almost certainly conscious parody.

So, for whatever reasons, hegesippus occasionally indulges his literary sense of humor. The fact that the Paulina/Mundus tale reminded him so strongly of the Annunciation story that he wrenched it out of the Antiquities to insert it into his recasting of the Bellum judaicum seems to offer strong support to Pharr’s contention that the Testimonium Flavianum originally contained a derogatory reference to Jesus Virgin birth and was probably on the whole a negative statement about Jesus. As Bammel concludes “So stellt sich der text in seiner Urfassung als die erhaltene literarische Denunziation der Christen dar”.

This interpretation of the passage may also shed some light on the next episode (Ant 18, 81-84) about an xxxxxx xxxxx who, having transgressed his nation’s laws, fled to avoid punishment. Settling in Rome, he set himself up as one who could xxxxxx, xxxxx and duped a wealthy female proselyte named Fulvia into sending a large donation to the Temple at Jerusalem. But he and three cronies kept the gifts and lived off them themselves. The woman’s husband Saturninus informed Tiberius of the situation, and the Emperor’s investigation resulted in the banishment of the entire Jewish community from Rome.

If, as has been seen to be likely, Josephus has just satirized the founder of Christianity, could not this passage, in light of its context, be understood as satirizing the new sect’s foremost propagator, Paul? Several details suggest the comparison. The apostle’s converts included large numbers of women, such as Lydia, his first convert in Europe (Acts 16:11-15) and Priscilla, who with her husband Aquila accompanied Paul on part of one of his journeys (Acts 18:18). Women are prominently mentioned in the salutations to the letters to Colossae and Rome. Paul had a number of different co-workers at various times, but he writes from Rome in Col 4:10-11 that three-Aristarchus, mark, and Jesus Justus-are “The only men of the circumcision among my fellow-workers”. And of course his collection of funds for the Jerusalem Christians was a major aspect of his third missionary journey. He talks about it in three of his letters (Rom 15:25-29; 1Cor 16:1-4; 2 Cor 8:1-9:15). The rewards promised for generosity in 2 Cor 9 are of the sort that could easily be taken by a skeptic as the lures of a charlatan.

I offer that last interpretation as only a tentative solution to the knotty problem of how the josephus passage fits into its present context. It admittedly rests entirely on the assumption that Pharr’s original suggestion was correct. But I’am confident that Hegesippus treatment of the Paulina/Mundus story as a parody of the Annunciation lends considerable credence to Pharr’s thesis that the Testimonium Flavianum originally contained a derogatory account of the manner of Jesus birth [I believe the joke was he was born of a donkey, by a trick or something else]. At about the time the church came into control of the Roman Empire the offending remarks were suppressed and Josephus became a witness for the prosecution. Hegesippus himself reveals how the Christians used Josephus: sin obis non credunt Iudaei, vel suis credant. Hoc dixit Iosephus (De excidio II, 12.I) it would not be surprising, considering his intimacy with Constantine, if Eusebius did in fact rewrite the passage as part of the imperial policy.


A. The works of Josephus Antiquities of the Jews chapter 18 chapter 3

B. Josephus the Satirist? A clue to the original form of the Testimonium Flavianum by Albert A. Bell

C. The Testimony of Josephus to Christianity By Clyde Pharr (1927) John Hopkins press 148 pages

D. Isis & Osiris By Plutarch

E. Introduction: Review of Caesar’s Messiah By Jerry Russell PHD found in Shakespeare’s Secret Messiah By Joe Atwill p.39-41

F. Chapter 11 of Caesar’s Messiah By Joe Atwill

G. Christ In Egypt by D.M Murdock under her chapter called “Anup the Baptizer” p.233-253
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