Re-dating Jesus’ Birth Narratives to 27 BCE

This information is new but supports data from my latest book, Judas of Nazareth.

The Birth Narratives of Matthew and Luke

Most scholars have recognized the impossible task of reconciling the two biblical birth narratives of Jesus. Matthew sets the drama in the narrow timeframe of 9-4 BCE, near the end of Herod the Great’s life (Herod died in 4 BCE) while Luke assigns a date of 6 CE, at the Census of Cyrenius. Obviously, both accounts cannot be correct, and possibly both are in error. Is this error, on the part of Matthew or Luke or both, purposeful or just shoddy workmanship?

Before answering the above question, we should quickly review the birth narratives in question.

After Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the time of King Herod, Magi from the East came to Jerusalem and asked, “Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews? We saw his star in the East and have come to worship him.”

When King Herod heard this he was disturbed, and all Jerusalem with him. When he had called together all the people’s chief priests and teachers of the law, he asked them where the Christ was to be born. “In Bethlehem in Judea,” they replied, “for this is what the prophet has written: ‘But you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, are by no means least among the rulers of Judah; for out of you will come a ruler who will be the shepherd of my people Israel.’”

Then Herod called the Magi secretly and found out from them the exact time the star had appeared. He sent them to Bethlehem and said, “Go and make a careful search for the child. As soon as you find him, report to me, so that I too may go and worship him”

After they had heard the king, they went on their way, and the star they had seen in the east went ahead of them until it stopped over the place where the child was. When they saw, they were overjoyed. On coming to the house, they saw the child with the mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshipped him. Then they opened their treasures and presented him with gifts of gold and of incense and of myrrh. And having been warned in a dream not to go back to Herod, they returned to their country by another route.

…After Herod died, an angel of the Lord appeared in a dream to Joseph in Egypt and said, “Get up, take the child and his mother and go to the land of Israel, for those who were trying to take the child’s life are dead.” (Matthew 2:1-12, 19-20)

First, since Herod dies while Jesus is still a child, the star and the birth must have been just a few years before 4 BCE. Thus, the range can be safely put at 9-4 BCE. Second, the star or celestial event in question must have lasted for some time, as the Magi follow this star from the East. And third, we must question how a star can pinpoint any location on the map.

In fact, the whole star story that includes Magi, gifts, and a locator star seems a bit farfetched. Yet, there may be some truth behind this story. In the Slavonic Josephus “Star of Bethlehem” story, the star represents the star prophecy. In this era, Jews believed that this star prophecy, based upon Numbers 24:17, would usher in a great Messiah figure to rescue the Jews from the Roman occupation. This is explained by another passage from the Slavonic Josephus.

But they were impelled to [make] war by an ambiguous prediction found in the sacred books, saying that in those times someone from the Judean Land would be reigning over the whole world. For this there are various explanations. For some thought it [meant] Herod, others the crucified miracle worker [Jesus], others Vespasian. (SJ War 6.312-313)

To the followers of “Jesus”, the star prophecy points to him as the worldwide savior. That belief is probably behind the Star of Bethlehem story. So, even if some of the details are just story-making, such as the Magi, the gifts, and the locator star, there may have been a spectacular celestial event at the time of “Jesus’” birth. The mixing of fantasy with observable fact may be the truth behind the Star of Bethlehem.

However, if we blindly accept Matthew’s version as fact, we must try to identify the star or celestial event in question. Throughout the years, many scholars and enthusiastic amateurs have tried to identify this wonderful star. Some have even suggested it may have been Halley’s Comet, even though that occurrence was in 12 BCE. So, even though many minor celestial events were chronicled in the period 9-4 BCE, no one event stands out as extraordinary.

In my book, Judas of Nazareth (1), I examine the Slavonic Josephus “Star of Bethlehem” birth narrative. That narrative is located in the text between 27-22 BCE. So, like the many scholars and amateurs who have tried locating the star around 4 BCE, I began my search at 27 BCE. Why not give the Slavonic version as much attention as Matthew’s version?

After a few Google searches, I found a much better candidate for the Slavonic “Star of Bethlehem” than for any suggested by Matthew’s timeline. In August 2014, Dwight Hutchinson, an amateur, published the book, The Lion Led the Way. In it he states:

In 27 and 26 BC a series of celestial events specifically centered on kingship would have been obvious to Babylonian, Jewish, Greek, Zoroastrian, or Roman astrologers as they looked at the constellation of Leo. [From August 27 BC to July 26 BC, Jupiter, Saturn, Venus and Mars] did a waltz around the star Regulus (Melech), the king star, in the constellation of Leo. Several times the planets made close approaches to the “king star”. On precisely November 17-19, Jupiter (Tzedek, the planet of righteousness, also often thought of as the “king planet”) and [Saturn] (Shabbattei, the Sabbath planet) both arrived at their first stationary points within a few degrees of Melech [Regulus]. This was the middle of a period of 12-14 days when the planets would have visually seemed to have stopped moving. In addition during the night of the 18th the full moon was facing the constellation of Leo and the planets Jupiter, Saturn and Mars.

…This November 27 BC event was exactly seven lunar months before an impressive gathering of planets in 26 BC. …On June 12th in 26 BC, Jupiter, Venus and Saturn were closely gathered together right beside the fixed star Regulus. While this grouping of planets together with Melech [Regulus] illuminated the western sky after sunset, the full moon rose in the east.

[In 1000 years before this celestial event, this alignment only occurred 2 other times, in 940 BC and in 880 BC.] (2)

While Hutchinson was hoping to find evidence for Matthew’s “Star of Bethlehem”, he may have found the actual “Star” in the years 27-26 BCE. So, we have two possibilities for the Star of Bethlehem, the 9-4 BCE event as put forth by Matthew and the 27-22 BCE event attested to by the Slavonic Josephus. And the greatest celestial events support the Slavonic version of 27-26 BCE.

Keeping this 27-26 BCE date in mind, we will examine Luke’s very different birth scenario.

In those days Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world. (This was the first census that took place while Quirinius was governor of Syria.) And everyone went to his own town to register.

So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David. He went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child. While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in strips of cloth and placed him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn. (Luke 2:1-7)

To understand the timeframe of Luke’s birth narrative, we must date several individuals and events included in the Gospel. First, Caesar Augustus reigned from 27 BCE to 14 CE. Second, Herod the Great was King of Israel from 37 BCE to 4 BCE. And third, the census that took place under Quirinius (Cyrenius) occurred in 6 CE. In Luke 1:5, the birth of John the Baptist, and six months later the birth of Jesus, occurred during the reign of Herod the Great. So, from that, the birth of Jesus had to have occurred between 37 BCE and 4 BCE. Both Matthew and the Slavonic Josephus dates fall within this range.

Can the above mentioned census dates from Luke 2:1-2 narrow the search? When did Augustus issue a decree that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world? According to Harvard Professor Mason Hammond, a general census of the whole empire for the purpose of taxation began in 27 BCE. (3) Commenting on Hammond’s conclusions, Paul L. Maier agrees that the 27 BCE census was “congruent with Luke 2:1” but that the Biblical census had to be in 8 BCE, consistent with Matthew’s nativity account that placed the event in the last years of Herod the Great. (4) Another amateur Christian historian writes the following:

Thus, Caesar’s 27 BC decision to start provincial registrations is the only event that we know of which could possibly be what Luke was trying to reference.

However, if Luke meant for 2:1 to refer to an event which took place in 27 BC, and if Luke 2:2 refers to the well known Governor of the year AD 6, then this odd juxtaposition may be more of a boon than a hindrance. The combination of these references … make it appear that Luke was trying to collapse more than three decades of time into one sentence. (5)

Of the two censuses mentioned in Luke 2:1-2, the 27 BCE Augustan census occurred during the reign of Herod the Great. The 6 CE Quirinius census was after the ouster of Herod’s son Archelaus and postdated the reign of Herod by ten years.

An actual candidate for the “Star of Bethlehem” and the first Augustan census both occurred in 27 BCE. This dating for the Messiah is consistent with the account in the Slavonic Josephus. And, this date would also approximate the birth of Judas the Galilean.

Finally, one last question must be asked: why does Matthew assign a date of 9-4 BCE and Luke a date of 6 CE? Both authors are Herodian and know the facts well. The 27 BCE date is when we would expect the birth of Judas the Galilean. To distance the newly created Jesus of Nazareth from the historical Judas the Galilean, the Gospel writers assign a birth date for Jesus that correspond with Judas the Galilean’s major deeds: the 4 BCE Golden Eagle Temple Cleansing and the 6 AD tax rebellion. Both events are recorded by Josephus and are anti-Roman in nature. The fledgling Christian movement could not be seen as anti-Roman, so the dating of the Messiah’s birth is fudged by the Gospel writers. And this sleight-of-hand has worked wonderfully for two thousand years.

1. Unterbrink, Judas of Nazareth, 321-324.
2. Hutchinson, The Lion Led the Way, 154-155.
3. Hammond, The Augustan Principate, 91.
4. Meier, Chronos, Kairos, Christos, 114.

Hammond, Mason. The Augustan Principate. New York: Russell and Russell, 1968.
Heroman, Bill.
Hutchinson, Dwight. The Lion Led the Way. CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform, 2014.
Vardman, Jerry and Yamauchi. Edwin M.. Chronos, Kairos, Christos. Winona Lake, In.: Eisenbrauns, 1989.

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42 Similarities Shared by “Jesus” and Judas the Galilean

For additional information concerning Judas the Galilean, Sadduc and Theudas, go to my new website:


The following list of forty-two similarities draws attention to the fact that the life of the Gospel Jesus had much in common with Judas the Galilean, as chronicled by Josephus. Scholars and Christians alike may find this list very hard to swallow, as it forces a reexamination of their basic belief system. But this list will also madden the Mythicists, who claim that a Messiah figure named Jesus never really existed. While I agree that Jesus of Nazareth was fictional, I do believe that this Jesus was a rewrite of a real individual, Judas the Galilean. And Judas the Galilean was not fictional! If Judas the Galilean lived, then so did his brothers and sons. Combined, they formed the Fourth Philosophy, a Movement that scholars and Mythicists have overlooked in their search for the real “Jesus.”

1. Date of Birth
Jesus was born in 8-4 BCE (Matthew) and in 6 CE at the Census of Cyrenius (Luke). Judas was mentioned by Josephus in 4 BCE, relating to the Golden Eagle Temple Cleansing (Ant. 17.149-167) and in 6 CE, regarding the Census of Cyrenius (Ant. 18.1-10).

The birth narratives in Matthew and Luke are inconsistent both with the reign of Pilate and the ministry of John the Baptist and with one another! If Jesus were born in 4 BCE and died thirty-three years later, then he died around 30 CE, during the reign of Pilate but five years before John the Baptist’s death (Ant. 18.116-119). If Jesus were born in 6 CE and died thirty-three years later, then he died in 39 CE, a few years after John the Baptist but two years after Pilate left Judea. Both accounts are historically flawed.

These two birth narratives were strategically placed in an era when Judas the Galilean’s ministry flourished. This deception moved the adult Jesus twenty or so years away from Judas the Galilean, thus hiding the Messiah’s true identity, a misdirection that has worked brilliantly. Very few scholars have even considered Jesus outside of the 30 CE timeframe. This is even more disturbing considering Jesus’ brother, James, was purported to be ninety-six years old in 62 CE by the Church historian Epiphanius. Even if James’ age was slightly exaggerated by ten years, his birth date can be estimated at approximately 35-25 BCE. Jesus was the older brother and could not have been born any later than 25 BCE.

Why did Matthew and Luke pick different dates for Jesus’ birth, especially when Luke likely knew the gospel of Matthew? If one solid date existed, then both Gospel writers should have easily followed that lone date. However, if the writers were trying to present an alternate date, then each may have tied the birth date to a different event. Matthew tied his birth date to the Golden Eagle Temple Cleansing while Luke used the Census of Cyrenius, the two major events in Judas the Galilean’s career. So, these are symbolic birthdays closely associated with the original Jesus Movement.

2. The Star of Bethlehem
In Matthew’s “Star of Bethlehem” story, the Magi were drawn to Jerusalem by a star, near the end of Herod the Great’s reign, around 4 BCE. These Magi found the baby Jesus but did not return to Herod to report the findings. Incensed, Herod ordered the slaughter of all the baby boys two years old and younger in the vicinity of Bethlehem. In the Slavonic Josephus, Persian astrologers went to Herod the Great, identifying the star in the sky and explained its significance. Herod insisted they return to him after finding the infant. However, the astrologers were warned by the stars to avoid Herod on the return trip. In his rage, Herod wanted to kill all the male children throughout his kingdom, but his advisors convinced him that the Messiah would come from Bethlehem, hoping to confine the slaughter to that small town. An early Christian inserted this Star of Bethlehem passage in War, placing it in the early years of Herod, between 27-22 BCE. (1)

This Slavonic Josephus passage originated from the same source supplying the Gospel version. The Slavonic text has some interesting details missing from Matthew, who wrote that the chief priests and teachers of the Law informed Herod that the infant would be born in Bethlehem. Herod then sent the Magi to Bethlehem, ordering them to return when they had located the infant (Matt. 2:3-8). This version does not give Herod much credit, for if he really knew that the child king was in Bethlehem, he would have slaughtered every child in Bethlehem before the Magi could even reach the place. On the other hand, the Slavonic version had Herod learning about the location after waiting for the Persian astrologers to return. This blunder on Herod’s part wasted precious time, allowing the infant and his parents to escape. Herod’s advisors also told Herod the meaning of the Star, tying it to the promised Star Prophecy, which foretold a leader coming from Judah (Numbers 24:17). The same sentiment was included in Matthew 2:6, but his quote from Micah 5:2 promised that a ruler would come from Bethlehem. All in all, the two versions have much in common and vary very little, the difference being the timeframe: 25 BCE versus 4 BCE.

If Jesus were born in 25 BCE, then he was 30 years old at the time of the census (6 CE), the exact time when John baptized in the Jordan and proclaimed the coming of the Messiah. (2) This date was also marked by the nationwide tax revolt led by Judas the Galilean, the historical Jesus (Ant. 18.4).

3. Genealogy
The genealogy of Jesus can also be compared to information known about Judas the Galilean. In Matthew 1:15 and Luke 3:24, Mattan and Matthat are listed as great grandfathers of Jesus. Since the Gospels added a few generations to distance Jesus from Judas, these great grandfathers may have been Jesus’ father. Judas’s father may have been Matthias, a name closely resembling Mattan and Matthat.

On Mary’s side, a similarity exists concerning the town of Sepphoris. In Christian tradition, Mary’s parents, Joachin and Anna, came from Sepphoris while Judas was linked to Sepphoris by Josephus, who wrote that Judas was the son of Sepphoris, or rather from Sepphoris, and that he also raided the armory at Sepphoris. Certainly, Judas was well acquainted with this town.

4. Killing the Enemy
Herod the Great planned to execute Judas after the Golden Eagle Temple Cleansing, ordering to have his prisoners put to death after his own death, in order to create great sorrow in Israel. Luckily for Judas, Herod’s advisors reneged on the insane plan (Ant. 17.149-167). According to the Gospels, Herod the Great tried to kill the baby Jesus (Matt. 2). Herod’s goal of eliminating Jesus ended with his own death. In both stories, an elderly paranoid Herod tried to kill a perceived threat to his rule. Of course, the infant narrative was not actual history but rather a replay of Moses’ infancy legend.

5. Settling in Galilee because of Archelaus
Joseph returned to Israel after the death of Herod the Great but was afraid to settle in Judea because of Archelaus. Having been warned in a dream, Joseph moved his family to Nazareth, in Galilee (Matt. 2:19-23). After being released by Archelaus (4 BCE), Judas went to Sepphoris in Galilee, where he led an uprising against the son of Herod (War 2.56). Sepphoris was in the tetrarchy of Herod Antipas, not under the control of Archelaus, who was waging war upon the followers of Judas and Matthias. The prudent move to Galilee allowed reorganization without fear of being attacked by Archelaus. The events in Josephus and the New Testament both occurred because Herod the Great had died, leaving the country in turmoil.

6. The Missing Years
The Gospels’ only mention of Jesus’ early life was his teaching at the Temple at the age of twelve (Luke 2:41-52). Otherwise, no information was given from 6 CE (Census of Cyrenius) to 26 CE (supposed date of Pilate’s arrival in Judea – See Appendix 1). This lack of information mirrors Josephus’ War, where nothing was written from 6 CE (Census) to 26 CE (Pilate) (War 2.167-169). Josephus barely expanded on this paucity of information in Antiquities, where he listed the Roman procurators during this twenty year stretch, but little else (Ant. 18.26-35).

Perhaps these missing years from Josephus resulted from pious editing. The actual crucifixion of Judas the Galilean may have been deleted or transformed into the TF (Ant. 18.63-64). Note that Josephus detailed the deaths of Judas’ three sons, James, Simon, and Menahem and his grandson, Eleazar, referring back to Judas the Galilean in each instance. It is hard to believe that Josephus would have omitted the circumstances behind the death of Judas. It is far more likely that the writings of Josephus were edited to remove some interesting details of Judas’ life and eventual crucifixion.

7. The Child Prodigy at the Temple
When only twelve, Jesus spent three days at the Temple, “sitting among the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions. Everyone who heard him was amazed at his understanding and his answers” (Luke 2:41-52). Judas taught young men at the Temple and was “the most celebrated interpreters of the Jewish laws and … well beloved by the people, because of [the] education of their youth” (Ant. 17.149 – 4 BCE). How many others also taught at the Temple?

Was Judas’ early career as teacher at the Temple made legend by placing his wisdom and knowledge within the body of a twelve year old? Consider this: If Judas had been born around 25 BCE (see number 2), then he would have been just twenty years old at the time of the Golden Eagle Temple Cleansing (4 BCE). His status as one of the finest teachers of the Law, at such a young age, must have been legendary. This child prodigy legacy was woven into the Gospel fabric by Luke in his story of the twelve-year-old Jesus.

8. The Dating of John the Baptist
John the Baptist may be the most important link between Judas the Galilean and Jesus. In Luke, John introduced Jesus to the world in 28-29 CE (Luke 3:1-3). In fact, this is why scholars look nowhere else for Jesus.

According to the Slavonic Josephus, this same John came baptizing in the Jordan in 6 CE, right before the mention of Judas the Galilean and during the reign of Archelaus (4 BCE- 7 CE). (3) In addition, the Psuedoclementine Recognitions acknowledged John right before describing the various Jewish sects (4), and Josephus described these same sects right after his introduction of Judas the Galilean (Ant. 18.4-22 and War 2.118-166). So the 6 CE timeframe for John the Baptist is affirmed by more than one source.

Could this John the Baptist have been baptizing and proclaiming different Messiahs in both 6 CE and 29 CE? The odds of that would be incalculable. The only logical conclusion is that Jesus and Judas the Galilean were one and the same. This explains why the Slavonic Josephus’ version of events has been ignored over the years. If John actually came in 6 CE, then all of New Testament scholarship is, at best, misinformed, not only making scholars look foolish but also proving the Pauline Jesus of Nazareth Movement (current-day Christianity) a sham.

9. The Second-in-Command – John the Baptist and Sadduc
Both Jesus and Judas had a second-in-command, John the Baptist and Sadduc, respectively. This organizational model was fashioned after the Maccabees, where Mattathias led the movement, with his son Judas Maccabee as his lieutenant. After Mattathias died, Simon took his place and Judas Maccabee was elevated to the leadership role. In the later Fourth Philosophy movement, Matthias and Judas worked together at the Temple and were responsible for the Golden Eagle Temple Cleansing incident. After Matthias suffered martyrdom, Judas filled this position with Sadduc (Ant. 18.4).

In the Gospel accounts, Jesus picked Simon Peter as his second-in-command, but in reality, Jesus was first paired with John the Baptist (Sadduc). When Jesus was crucified, he was replaced by his brother, James the Just. At this stage, John the Baptist and James shared control of the movement. In 35-36 CE, after John was beheaded by Herod Antipas, James appointed Cephas (Peter) to be John’s successor. The Gospels successfully minimized the roles of John the Baptist and James. According to these accounts, John died before Jesus, but per Josephus, Jesus died first. James the Just was barely mentioned by Acts, his leadership role unannounced until Acts chapter 15, at the Council of Jerusalem. By marginalizing John the Baptist and James the Just, the Gospels were able to skip a generation, designating Peter (Cephas) as the leading apostle after the death of Jesus.

Dual leadership may have safeguarded the Jewish Messianic Movement. If one leader was captured or killed, then the other could take control. The Movement of Judas the Galilean (Jesus) differed from that of Judas Maccabee in that the later movement believed in the resurrection of its leader. Thus, even though John the Baptist and James led the Movement after the death of Jesus, they still awaited the return of Jesus in power and glory. So, in essence, John and James were merely caretakers. This may account for the divisions in the 40-CE church in Corinth. Paul wrote that some disciples followed himself, others followed Cephas (James the Just), others followed Apollos (John the Baptist) (Acts 18:24-25), and others followed Christ (Judas the Galilean/Jesus) (1 Cor. 1:10-12). This split may have been inevitable since Judas the Galilean’s Movement was held together by a common hatred of Rome, on the part of teachers who may have come from both the Pharisees and the Essenes. Differences, in approach to religion, were inevitable.

10. Nazareth and Sepphoris
Jesus and Judas were both called the Galilean. Actually, Jesus was referred to as Jesus of Nazareth, a village allegedly located near Sepphoris in Galilee. Note that Sepphoris was central to Judas the Galilean’s ministry. Placing Nazareth close to Sepphoris was more than just coincidence. In War 1.648, Judas was said to be the son of Sepphoris or from Sepphoris. And in War 2.56, after being harassed by Archelaus, Judas retreated to Sepphoris, where he armed his disciples with weapons from the armory. Judas’ history with Sepphoris was no doubt changed to Nazareth to hide these embarrassing revelations. After all, both of the above references to Sepphoris were in the context of armed rebellion against Herod the Great and later, Archelaus.

No references to Nazareth appear in the Old Testament or in Josephus. In fact, John Crossan stated that in addition to Josephus’ silence concerning Nazareth, “it is never mentioned by any of the Jewish rabbis whose pronouncements are in the Mishnah or whose discussions are in the Talmud.” (5) Jesus’ disciples were called Galileans (Mark 14:70) and a sleight-of-hand may have changed Jesus the Galilean into Jesus of Nazareth. In John 7:41, the crowd asked, “How can the Christ come from Galilee?” And the leaders had the same reservations about Jesus: “Look into it, and you will find that a prophet does not come out of Galilee” (John 7:52).

Nazareth may be a corruption of Nazirite, one consecrated to God by a vow. Samson and John the Baptist were notable Nazirites. But more likely, Nazareth depoliticized the revolutionary Nazorean sect, which, according to Acts 24:5, was stirring up riots among the Jews throughout the Empire. Obviously, the Gospels wanted to remove revolutionary aspects from their Messiah.

Judas the Galilean was mentioned in several passages by Josephus (War 2.118; War 2.433 and Ant. 20.102), who did state that this Judas hailed from Gamala, across the River Jordan (Ant. 18.4), but he was known as the Galilean, as attributed to the above references. Galilee was a hotbed for revolutionaries. Both Jesus and Judas had similar backgrounds, influenced by those struggling for years against Herod the Great and Rome.

11. Zealous for the Law
The disciples of Jesus and Judas were zealous for the Law (Acts 21:20; Ant. 17.149-154). It is true that Paul taught his Gentile followers to disregard the Law. However, the Jewish Jesus Movement, led by James the Just, clearly denounced that teaching and removed Paul and his followers from fellowship (See Galatians).

Some forty years after the death of Judas (19 CE), a splinter group of the Fourth Philosophy, known as Zealots, appeared on the scene. As their name suggests, these individuals were obsessed with the Law, comparable to the fanatical followers of James the Just (Acts 21:20).

12. Wise Men
Judas and Jesus were both called wise men by Josephus (Ant. 17.152; Ant. 18.63). As the Jesus passage was a late third or early fourth century interpolation, the use of the term wise man was probably taken from the description of Judas and Matthias. Also note that Josephus did not freely use the term wise man. He did, however, use that term when describing himself. If Josephus called himself a wise man then this indeed was a great compliment!

13. Pure Communism
Both teachers assigned a high value to the sharing of wealth or pure communism (Matt. 6:19-27; Acts 2:42-45; James 5:1-6 and Ant. 18.7; War 2.427) (Essenes – War 2.122). In fact, sharing was the central message in “Love your Neighbor as Yourself.” How could one love his neighbor if he let that neighbor go hungry or unclothed? When Jesus confronted the rich young ruler, he did not say “give ten percent to the poor,” but rather, “give everything to the poor and then come follow me” (Matt. 19:16-24). This was a radical message two thousand years ago. How many middle-class Americans would follow that same philosophy today?

Members of the Fourth Philosophy were known as bandits by Josephus, for they exploited the wealthy, a type of Robin Hood movement. During the war with Rome, the debt records were burned in order to free those enslaved to the wealthy by their debt (War 2.426-427). This was truly class warfare! As for the Zealots, Josephus shared his contempt for their practices concerning wealth and private property: “The dregs, the scum of the whole country, they have squandered their own property and practiced their lunacy upon the towns and villages around, and finally have poured in a stealthy stream into the Holy City…” (War 4.241). Considering what Jesus advised the rich young ruler, Josephus would have had the same attitude towards Jesus’ lunacy!

In Acts 2:42, disciples were urged to share everything in common, an approach to living in line with the Kingdom of God as preached by Jesus. The feeding of the five thousand was simply the sharing of one’s food with others and had nothing to do with miraculous hocus-pocus. The letter of James also favored the poor over the rich (James 5:1-6).

14. Fine Teachers of the Law
Both Jesus and Judas were considered fine teachers of the Law (Matt. 5:17-20; Mark 12:28-34 and Ant. 17.149; War 1.648). Both followed the basic teachings of the Pharisees. As for Judas’ abilities, Josephus wrote: “[Judas and Matthias were] the most celebrated interpreters of the Jewish laws, and well beloved by the people” (Ant. 17.149). The earlier assessment from War 1.648 stated that “there were two men of learning in the city [Jerusalem], who were thought the most skillful in the laws of their country, and were on that account held in very great esteem all over the nation.”

From the Gospels, we know that Jesus used parables in relating his message, in line with Pharisaic practices. For Jesus, the two greatest commandments were to love God and to love thy neighbor. To love God involved obeying God and the Law handed down by God to Moses, while to love thy neighbor included sharing one’s possessions, so that no one was left hungry or homeless. In addition, both Judas and Jesus followed Judas Maccabee in his interpretation of the Sabbath: The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath. Judas Maccabee permitted his disciples to defend themselves if attacked on the Sabbath. Likewise, Jesus preached that it was proper to do good on the Sabbath. In fact, when reprimanded by some Pharisees for breaking the Sabbath laws as he fled from Herod, Jesus quoted the Old Testament story of David eating consecrated bread in order to maintain strength in his flight from the authorities. Jesus had good reason to follow David and Judas Maccabee: He was a marked man. Neither Jesus nor Judas Maccabee would have flouted the Sabbath law for any old reason.

From Josephus, Judas the Galilean was known throughout the nation for his ability in interpreting the Law. We get the same feeling for Jesus when reading the Gospels. The Pharisees constantly invited him to dinner in order to discuss issues. While we are privy to only the negative aspects of those meetings, in reality, most teachers in Israel considered Jesus an important figure and were constantly amazed at his teachings.

15. Movement Centered in Jerusalem and Galilee
Judas the Galilean’s Movement centered in Jerusalem and in Galilee. Judas began his public career in Jerusalem, teaching young men at the Temple. He convinced his students to take part in the Golden Eagle Temple Cleansing and was arrested by Herod the Great and imprisoned (Ant. 17.149-167). Released by Archelaus, he fled to Sepphoris in Galilee, where he preached until his return to Jerusalem. His disciples crowned Judas Messiah, and he later led a tax revolt against Rome (Ant. 17.271-272; 18.1-10).

Jesus was also in Jerusalem at the start of his career, according to John. Coincidentally, John placed his Temple Cleansing at the start of Jesus’ career, consistent with the story of Judas the Galilean (John 2:12-17). Jesus then returned to Galilee, where he was proclaimed Messiah and spent most of his public ministry. When Jesus finally returned to Jerusalem, he was captured and crucified.

Even after Judas’ death, his Movement revolved around Jerusalem and Galilee. In fact, Josephus noted that Eleazar was sent by his leaders in Galilee to teach King Izates true Judaism, which included circumcision. King Izates had previously been taught by Ananias that he could become a full Jew without circumcision. The Jewish Jesus Movement also practiced circumcision. Note that Paul and Cephas also had a similar disagreement in Antioch, caused by men sent from James. James may have been centered in either Jerusalem or in Galilee. However, since this occurred around the time of Agrippa’s assassination, James probably located himself in a safer place, no doubt, Galilee.

16. Two Temple Cleansings
Both Jesus and Judas cleansed the Temple in Jerusalem (Matt. 21:12-13 and Ant. 17.149-167). Actually, Judas probably purified the Temple twice. The first cleansing was the Golden Eagle Temple incident when Matthias and Judas were captured by Herod the Great. The Golden Eagle was a sign of fealty to Rome, and the teachers could not condone this alliance, considering that God was their only Lord and Ruler (Ant. 18.23). The second cleansing can be deduced from inference. Judas the Galilean’s son, Menahem, followed his father’s modus operandi and seized an armory before marching upon Jerusalem. Menehem promptly cleansed the Temple after being hailed as Messiah by his disciples.

Interestingly, the Gospel of John placed the Temple cleansing at the beginning of Jesus’ career (John 2:12-25) while the Synoptic Gospels have it near the end of his ministry. What are the odds of two different men cleansing the Temple once, not to say twice? Outside of the cleansing in 4 BCE (Judas) and the cleansing by his son in 66 CE (Menahem), Josephus did not record one other Temple cleansing from 4 BCE to 66 CE. It was certainly not an everyday occurrence.

The Slavonic Josephus verified that the Golden Eagle was in honor of Caesar and was even named “the Golden-winged Eagle.” (6) Josephus stated that Pilate brought his standards bearing the emblem of the Roman Eagle into Jerusalem in 19 CE, right before the crucifixion of Judas/Jesus (TF). In both the Temple cleansing of 4 BCE and the one in 19 CE, the power of Rome was attacked by the Jewish Messiah.

17. Opposition to Roman Taxation
Judas opposed the Roman tax, and Jesus was crucified for opposing the Roman tax (Ant. 18.4 and Luke 23.2). The ministry of Judas (4 BCE – 19 CE) focused upon the tax issue. At the Barabbas-style prisoner release ordered by Archelaus in 4 BCE, the Jewish crowd demanded the release of prisoners, the easing of annual payments and the removal of an onerous sales tax (Ant. 17.204-205). Judas then led a tax revolt at the time of the census (6 CE), but this did not end the extortion by Rome. Tacitus stated that Judea was exhausted by its tax burden (16-18 CE) (Annals, ii. 42). This struggle against Roman taxation was well documented by both Tacitus and Josephus.

Jesus did not oppose every tax, but his hatred of Roman taxation is beyond doubt. “Give to Caesar what is Caesar’s and to God what is God’s” was not a pro-tax message. Jesus was saying this: Take your coinage with Caesar’s portrait and leave our country. This statement went well beyond a “yes” or “no” answer to the tax question. To “Give God what is God’s” harkened the Jews back to the days of Judas Maccabee and his struggle for Jewish independence. This is why Jesus was crucified by the Romans.

Paul, on the other hand, taught his disciples to pay their taxes to Rome without hesitation (Rom. 13:1-7), an accommodation to Roman taxation totally opposite the view of Judas (Jesus). Many people read Paul’s view into the interpretation of Jesus’ statement: “Give to Caesar what is Caesar’s and to God what is God’s.” But we must remember that Jesus was crucified and that death was reserved for insurrectionists and slaves; it was not a result of supporting Roman taxation.

18. A New Religion or Philosophy
According to Josephus, Judas founded the Fourth Philosophy during his fight with Herod the Great’s dynasty and Rome (Ant. 18.1-10). Jesus of Nazareth was credited with the founding of Christianity, a new religion, though never mentioned by Josephus — an amazing omission. It is my contention that Josephus was very concerned with the followers of Jesus, but under the moniker of the Fourth Philosophy.

The Fourth Philosophy joined the earlier philosophies of Pharisees, Sadducees, and Essenes, holding to Pharisaic beliefs with an extremely nationalistic agenda. Also, Judas’ disciples shared some practices with the Essenes. Thus, the nationalistic movement had drawing power that the other philosophies lacked. This may explain why John the Essene was a leader in the war against Rome, no doubt influenced by the Fourth Philosophy. Essenes were known as pacifists, so the mention of a warlike Essene has confounded scholars.

In reading the New Testament, one must admit that Jesus was quite often friendly with the Pharisees. He did blast those who loved themselves more than their fellow Jews, but his overall feeling for the Pharisees was positive. “You are not far from the kingdom of heaven,” Jesus said to one Pharisee (Mark 12:34). Like Judas, Jesus was very close to the Pharisees in belief and action.

19. Josephus on the Death of Judas and the Life of Jesus
Josephus detailed the life but not the death of Judas while mentioning the death of Jesus but not one word about his life. Josephus invested much effort in recounting Judas’ life, even touching upon the lives of his sons, James, Simon, and Menahem and his grandson, Eleazar (Ant. 20.102; War 2.433-434; War 7.253). Each time the descendants were recognized, Josephus recounted their pedigree. This did not occur in just one isolated time period: Simon and James were crucified in 46-48 CE, Menahem stoned in 66 CE and Eleazar led the Sicarii at Masada in 73 CE. This legacy of Judas the Galilean ran throughout Josephus’ narrative.

Perhaps, the death of Judas by crucifixion was removed from Josephus’ works by a later Gentile Christian who believed the death might attract too much unwanted attention. Most scholars believe that the passage in Josephus detailing the death of Jesus is a late third to early fourth century forgery. The question is this: Was the spurious Jesus passage (TF of Ant. 18.63-64) a replacement for Judas’ death by crucifixion? The death of Judas by crucifixion should not be seriously doubted. Judas fought against Rome, actions punishable by crucifixion. In addition, Judas’ two sons, James and Simon, were crucified a generation later (46-48 CE).

20. Zealots and Sicarii
Zealots and Sicarii were part of the following of both Judas the Galilean and Jesus. Josephus asserts that Zealots and Sicarii arose from Judas’ Fourth Philosophy. Two of Jesus’ apostles were named Simon the Zealot and Judas Iscariot (a garbling of Sicarios). Since the Zealots and Sicarii were not introduced until the late 50’s and early 60’s by Josephus, titles of that sort were not used in Jesus’ time (4 BCE – 19 CE). These names were placed on the Apostles by Gentile Christians, after the disastrous war with Rome. In addition, the nickname “Sons of Thunder” for the sons of Zebedee denotes a power associated with the Fourth Philosophy, not the mild Christianity of the Gospels.

21. Dying for the Cause
Disciples of both Judas and Jesus were willing to die for their respective causes. The Neronian persecution reported by Tacitus and the description of the Fourth Philosophy by Josephus indicate a willingness to die happily for God. (In fact, Edward Gibbon conjectured that Tacitus really was describing the Fourth Philosophy, not the traditional Christians!) Jesus said: “Blessed [are] the ones being persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the Kingdom of God” (Matt. 5:10). In the same way, Judas and Matthias stressed the rewards of righteousness if they were to be punished by Herod the Great (Ant. 17.149-167), and the followers of Judas the Galilean gladly accepted death for the sake of righteousness (Ant. 18.23-24).

Unlike the Fourth Philosophy (Jewish Jesus Movement), Paul’s Gentiles were taught to pay taxes to Rome and to follow their rulers (Nero and other madmen.) Paul’s philosophy of acting like a Gentile to the Gentiles and like a Jew to the Jews was totally contrary to Judas’ and Jesus’ teachings. Judas (Jesus) was who he claimed to be. He never acted a part as did Paul.

22. Sons and Brothers
Two sons of Judas and two “brothers” of Jesus were named James and Simon. How easy it would have been for an early Gospel writer to change children into brothers and a wife into a mother. This would have been done for several reasons. First, by making sons and a wife into brothers and a mother, the Gospel writers wiped out a generation, making Jesus a much younger man of about thirty. Second, to follow in Paul’s footsteps, one had to be celibate. Although marriage and sex had no negative connotations in Jewish society, the later Church found it difficult to accept the fact that God’s Son had sex resulting in children. Third, it was easier to disassociate Jesus from brothers and a mother. A good father and husband would have been more understanding with his wife and his own children. I have argued throughout this book that the real first-century Messiah had a wife and family.

23. Drinking the Same Cup as Jesus – Crucifixion
Two sons of Judas were put to death by crucifixion. Jesus was the only other individual crucified to be mentioned by name. Also two Apostles were to drink the same cup as Jesus, namely crucifixion (Matt. 20:20-23 and Ant. 20.102). It is my contention that these two Apostles were the sons of Jesus (Judas the Galilean). This is significant because crucifixion was a form of punishment exacted by Roman authorities. One was crucified because of political activity, not for religious beliefs. In fact, the Romans allowed all types of religions as long as they supported Rome and its tax machine, making Paul’s version of Christianity the model Roman religion! Jesus was crucified because he preached against Roman taxation and was proclaimed King or Messiah. The two sons of Judas the Galilean were also crucified for resisting Rome law.

24. Nicknames
Many members of the Jesus Movement had nicknames. Sadduc was a priestly title denoting righteousness while John the Baptist “commanded the Jews to exercise virtue, both as to righteousness towards one another, and piety towards God” (Ant. 18.117). James, the brother of Jesus, was known as the “Just.” Judas the Galilean was known as Jesus (Joshua means “Savior”), Saul was renamed Paul (“small”), and Simon became Cephas (Peter), which means “rock.” The above nicknames generally described the character of the individual. These internal nicknames were not known or used by those outside the movement. Thus, Josephus wrote of Judas the Galilean, Simon and Saul, never using the names Jesus, Cephas and Paul. Nicknames were also used in the Maccabean movement. Judas was nicknamed Maccabee or “Hammer.” Since the Fourth Philosophy (Jesus Movement) was based upon the Maccabean movement, the use of nicknames should be expected.

Other nicknames in the Jesus Movement included the “Sons of Thunder” (James and Simon, the sons of Judas the Galilean). Only Judas compared positively to “Thunder.” Simon the “Zealot” and James the “Younger” were probably references to these sons of Judas. Remember, the Gospel writers were intent on hiding the true identities of Jesus’ sons. One other nickname was Thomas, used for the name Judas, another son of Judas the Galilean. The combination of Judas and Thomas may have yielded Theudas or Thaddeus.

The epithet of the “Mary called the Magdalene” deserves special mention. The Aramaic root word magdala means “tower.” Since the town now assumed to be the hometown of Mary Magdalene—Migdol, located on the shores of the Sea of Galilee—was called Taricheae during her lifetime until a new fishing village was built over its ruins following the Jewish Revolt (70 CE), it is unlikely that this beloved Mary was ever at home there. Far more likely, according to Margaret Starbird, an independent “Magdalene” researcher, is that this title was given to Mary, the sister of Lazarus, who is credited in John’s gospel as the woman who anointed Jesus, proclaiming him “Messiah” at the banquet in Bethany shortly before his arrest. Starbird believes the honorific “H Magdalhnh” was derived from a prophetic passage, Micah 4:8-11, addressed to the Magdal-eder, the “Tower of the Flock.” These four lines of ancient Hebrew prophecy sum up the story of Mary Magdalene, beginning with her mourning at the tomb of her deceased husband and rabbi: “As for you, O Magdal-eder… Why are you crying? Have you no King? Has your counselor perished, that you cry aloud…?” The text goes on to prophecy her foreign exile: “Go now and dwell in the open fields. To Babylon must you go, and from there you shall be rescued. Nations will gather against you, they will call you ‘unclean’.” Note that in John 20:15, Mary Magdalene weeping at the tomb on Easter morning is addressed in the same words: “Why are you crying?”

Starbird further postulates that the distinctive epithet “H Magdalhnh” was coined in light of its “gematria” 153, found in John 21—the 153 fishes as a metaphor for the ekklesia of Christian believers, later described in Paul’s epistles as the “Bride of Christ.” The “153” was one of the number of the sacred canon, universally associated with the “vesica piscis” and with the goddess of love and fertility among the ancients. There was nothing accidental about this distinctive honorific chosen for the woman who was the koinonos of the Lord.

25. Proclaimed Messiah
Jesus was proclaimed Messiah or King in Galilee, or close by. Before the Transfiguration, Jesus and the Twelve were in Caesarea Philippi (Matt. 16:13) and afterwards traveled to Capernaum (Matt. 17:24). After Jesus was proclaimed King, he marched to Jerusalem.

Judas was also proclaimed King in Galilee, probably near Sepphoris, soon after he captured Herod’s armory and equipped his followers (Ant. 17.271-272; War 2.56). He also may have marched upon Jerusalem, deduced by examining the later behavior of his son, Menahem, who proclaimed himself King after capturing Herod’s armory at Masada in 66 CE. He then marched straight to Jerusalem (War 2.433). Judas the Galilean’s entrance to Jerusalem may have been in 19 CE, so his kingship may have actually lasted twenty-two years, from 4 BCE to 19 CE, far longer than that of the Gospel Jesus who proceeded directly to Jerusalem. Remember, however, the Gospels telescoped the career of Jesus into a few short years just as Josephus compressed the seventy-five year movement created by Judas into a few paragraphs (Ant. 18.1-10).

26. The Scattering of Disciples
In Acts 5:37, Judas the Galilean was killed “and all his followers were scattered.” This passage was meant to minimize Judas’ influence, giving the impression that Judas’ movement ended with his death. However, Josephus clearly recorded that Judas’ movement grew and expanded over the next fifty to sixty years.

There is an amazing convergence between Judas and Jesus concerning the disciples’ reaction to his arrest. In Matt. 26:56, after Jesus’ arrest, “the disciples deserted him and fled.” In Mark 14:50, “everyone deserted him and fled.” These two Gospels are in complete agreement concerning the disciples’ behavior after the arrest. However, in Luke, the disciples did not flee, but Simon Peter followed at a distance. Why is the account in Luke different from the other Synoptic Gospels? The answer may be in Acts 5:37, that passage distorting the picture of Judas the Galilean. If the author of Luke penned Acts, then a direct correlation between Judas and Jesus can be established. Luke attributed the fleeing disciples to Judas the Galilean and not to Jesus.

27. Annas
After his arrest, Jesus was brought first to Annas, the father-in-law of Caiaphas and former High Priest (John 18:12-24). This Annas was appointed High Priest in 6 CE by Cyrenius and Coponius, in the days of the census. Judas the Galilean opposed the census and Annas. Certainly, Annas would have been much more interested in the death of Judas the Galilean than that of the Gospel Jesus. But why would the ex-High Priest take a leading role in the arrest of Jesus? Under the governorship of Gratus (15-18 CE), four different High Priests were appointed. This musical-chair approach to the High Priesthood must have maddened the religious people of the day, including Judas/Jesus. Perhaps this prompted him to enter Jerusalem. In all probability, Annas was calling the shots even after his stint as High Priest, since, as Josephus reports, this Annas had five sons who were High Priest (Ant. 20.198). The existence of this dynasty reveals that Annas was a force in first-century Judea.

The Gospel of John may have inadvertently connected Jesus with Judas’ old adversary. The Synoptic Gospels were careful to avoid mentioning Annas, preferring to have the whole affair tried before Caiaphas and the elders. John’s mention of Annas certainly lends credence to my Judas the Galilean hypothesis, in that he functioned in a leadership role during the lifetime of Judas. Also, Annas would have been physically stronger in 19 CE than later in 30-33 CE, per the traditional Gospel dating. Annas may well have been dead by then.

28. Dreams and the Washing of Hands
In the trial of Matthias after the Golden Eagle incident, the High Priest was also named Matthias. This latter Matthias had once relinquished his office for a day, a day celebrated by a fast, because of a dream where he had sexual relations with his wife. Pilate washed his hands of responsibility on a single day because of his wife’s dream concerning Jesus’ innocence (Matt. 27:19-24 and Ant. 17.166). In both cases, a dream sequence was used to remove responsibility for a short period of time. In the case of Pilate, this conveniently shifted the blame for Jesus’ crucifixion from the Romans to the Jews, even though crucifixion was a Roman punishment. The Jews supposedly said, “Let his blood be on us and on our children” (Matt. 27:25). Unfortunately, this curse has been used as an excuse to persecute Jews throughout history.

The scene where Pilate washed his hands and the Jews greedily usurped his sentencing power appears extremely unlikely. According to the Gospels, the Jews welcomed Jesus into Jerusalem as Messiah, just a few days earlier. Now they were willing to have his blood on their heads for all eternity? This cannot be logically explained. The alternative is radical but at least logical: This dream scene was adapted from the Matthias episode and reworked using the new Pauline thinking, styling Jews – not Romans– as the enemies of Jesus.

29. Questioning by Herod
Herod the Great sent Matthias, Judas, and the rebels to Jericho for questioning concerning the Golden Eagle Temple Cleansing. There, Herod heard the reasons for the uprising (Ant. 17.160). Pilate sent Jesus to Herod Antipas for questioning (Luke 23:6-7), an interrogation mentioned only by Luke, who had a tendency to take events from Josephus’ works and incorporate them into the fictional story of Jesus and the early Church. There were two purifications of the Temple, the Golden Eagle Temple Cleansing and the one recorded in the Gospels near the end of Jesus’ career. Two trials or interrogations also occurred, one before Herod the Great in 4 BCE and the other before Pilate in 19 CE. Luke simply combined these two trials in his Gospel.

30. The Barabbas Prisoner Release
Under Herod the Great’s son Archelaus (4 BCE), prisoners were released to appease the Jewish mob. One of these prisoners was Judas the Galilean (War 2.4 and Ant. 17.204-205). This same story was repeated at the trial of Jesus. In that account, Pilate released Barabbas to the mob instead of Jesus (Matt. 27:15-26). Note that the Romans did not routinely release political prisoners, but rather, crucified them. On the other hand, the release of prisoners by Archelaus rings true as he was dealing with the remnants of the Matthias and Judas following. In Matthew’s Gospel, the crowd wished for the release of Barabbas — literally, “son of the Father.” Which “Father” was meant? — Matthias or God?

A critic of my theory insists that Archelaus never released the prisoners, but only promised to release them. For two reasons his scenario does not make sense: First, Archelaus could have quickly appeased the mob by releasing prisoners immediately. He also promised to reduce taxes. Since that could not be accomplished immediately, Archelaus may very well have reneged on that promise. Second, after the prisoner release, Archelaus also granted the mob’s request regarding the removal of the High Priest, which could also be done immediately. So, there should be no doubt that the prisoner release actually occurred.

31. Insurrection in Jerusalem
In the Gospel story, Barabbas led an insurrection in Jerusalem (Mark 15:7 and Luke 23:19). Shortly before the prisoner release of 4 BCE, Matthias and Judas led the Golden Eagle Temple Cleansing, an insurrection in the city, where many of the rebels suffered martyrdom, while others, Judas included, were held for later punishment (Ant. 17.149-167; 17.204-206).

Insurrections in Jerusalem were not commonplace in the timeframe noted. From 4 BCE to 50 CE, the only ones recorded were the Golden Eagle Temple Cleansing (4 BCE) and the one supposedly led by Barabbas. This should reinforce the statement that Barabbas was really an epithet for Judas (Jesus). (In some manuscripts, Barabbas was known as Jesus Barabbas). Both insurrections were aimed at Rome. The Golden Eagle was a symbol of Rome, and Barabbas of Gospel fame was undoubtedly a member of the Fourth Philosophy. Judas and Barabbas were also very popular with the anti-Roman Jewish crowd.

32. The Prisoner Release at Passover
The trial of Jesus and the release of Barabbas both occurred at the Passover feast (Mark 14:12). The release of prisoners in 4 BCE also coincided with the Passover (Ant. 17.213). As there were three Jewish pilgrim festivals (Passover, Pentecost and Tabernacles), the odds of this coincidence can be calculated as 3 to the 2nd power, or one in nine. (7)

33. Purple Robe and Crown
King Herod the Great died a week or so before the Passover feast. At his death, Herod was clothed in purple, with a crown of gold upon his head and a scepter in his right hand (Ant. 17.197). This occurred soon after the Golden Eagle Temple Cleansing and before the prisoner release, an important part of the Judas the Galilean story. Before his death, Jesus was mocked by the Roman soldiers who put a purple robe on him and wove a crown of thorns to be placed upon his head. A staff was used to beat him (Mark 15:16-20).

34. Mockery
Jesus was mocked by the Roman soldiers (Mark 15:16-20). Herod the Great, after the Golden Eagle incident, was afraid that the people would mourn his death in “sport and mockery” only (Ant. 17.177). The Gospels and Acts often used information from Josephus or from the mind of Paul to flesh out the story of Jesus and his Church. Jesus not only wore the same garb as Herod, but he was treated as poorly by his adversaries.

Points 33 and 34 conflate Herod the Great and Jesus. Giving Jesus attributes belonging to Herod the Great should not surprise us, since Paul, a Herodian, also created Jesus in his own image, placing his own ideas and actions into the mind of the Messiah.

35. The Sounds of Silence
Many religious scholars have questioned the silence of Jesus before Pilate. To the amazement of Pilate, Jesus made no reply when charged with a crime (Mark 15:3-5). Unlike Paul, who made a speech everywhere in Acts, Jesus remained silent. Josephus mentioned this type of behavior concerning Simon, who had been summoned to answer charges by Agrippa I (43 CE). (This Simon-Agrippa episode was the basis for the Simon Peter-Cornelius story of Acts chapter 10.)

Silence was a way to protect the Jesus Movement, whose members under interrogation would not betray their compatriots. The questioning of Jesus was probably more severe than we are led to believe in the Gospel accounts. Pilate and his henchmen wanted information, and they no doubt tortured Jesus. He, however, did not betray his friends. The Fourth Philosophy, represented by Simon in the Simon-Agrippa episode, also was famous for steadfast loyalty to God and fellow members. “They do not value dying any kind of death, nor indeed do they heed the deaths of their relations and friends, nor can any such fear make them call any man Lord” (Ant. 18.23-25). In short, they would rather die than betray God and their fellow disciples.

36. The Crowd’s Preference
In the Gospel story, the crowd (Pharisees, etc.) preferred Barabbas over King Jesus (Mark 15:1-15). This was not only an endorsement for Barabbas but also demonstrated an intense hatred for Jesus. We are to believe that the same crowd that welcomed Jesus into Jerusalem as Messiah was now calling for his death.

Josephus described the crowd as followers of Matthias and Judas, who preferred these teachers over King Herod (Ant. 17.204-206). (Note that the later followers of Judas/Jesus also hated the Herodian Paul). The disciples really loved Judas and Matthias, but their hatred of Herod and all he represented was unparalleled. Their hatred of Herod was incorporated in the Gospel story where the Chief Priests and the Jews hated Jesus.

37. Matthias
After the Golden Eagle incident, Matthias was burned to death, while Judas eventually gained freedom in a Barabbas-style prisoner release. Once released, Judas assumed the leadership role previously held by Matthias. The second-in-command role was then given to Sadduc.

In Acts, Matthias replaced Judas Iscariot as one of the Twelve. While the Josephus story had Judas replacing Matthias, the Acts’ version had Matthias replacing a Judas. This Matthias was never mentioned in the Gospels and was absent from any subsequent activities as recorded by Acts. Matthias was just a name taken from Judas the Galilean’s past and playfully included in the Judas Iscariot story.

In fact, James the Just replaced the crucified Jesus. Since Judas Iscariot was an invented character to further lay blame upon the Jewish people, he could never actually be replaced. He never existed! On the other hand, Jesus was crucified and was the one needing to be replaced. With the death of Jesus, John the Baptist (Sadduc) became the Movement’s leader with James the Just as his second-in-command.

38. The Two Bandits
Jesus was crucified between two “bandits” (lestes), Josephus’ term for members of the Fourth Philosophy. This term bandit did not refer to thieves or highwaymen but rather to terrorists (freedom fighters) or those fomenting political turmoil. (8) That Jesus was crucified between these two should not surprise. Jesus was their leader.

John Crossan admits that Jesus was an apocalyptic preacher, claiming that he never advocated violence. He concludes that if Jesus were a military threat then Pilate would have captured a large number of Jesus’ disciples with him and crucified them as well. (9) There are two fundamental errors in Crossan’s reasoning. First, the Jesus Movement (Fourth Philosophy) was not violent as compared to the later Fourth Philosophy as dominated by the Zealots and Sicarii. The early version of the Fourth Philosophy, as preached by Jesus (Judas), would rid Israel of Roman occupation by the power of God, not by armed rebellion or by assassinations. This same philosophy was still in place by the 40’s when Theudas called upon God to part the river Jordan (Ant. 20.97). Second, Crossan does not recognize that Jesus was placed between two bandits. Obviously, Pilate had captured some of Jesus’ disciples as they hung to his left and to his right. By placing Jesus in the middle and by attaching the charge against him, King of the Jews, Pilate attacked the Fourth Philosophy head on.

The treatment of the bandits in the Gospels is not consistent. John 19:18 simply stated that Jesus was crucified with “two others — one on each side and Jesus in the middle.” John had nothing more to say about these two. Mark and Matthew told a different tale, writing that “those crucified with him [the bandits] also heaped insults on him” (Mark 15:32). In this, Mark and Matthew aligned the bandits with the High Priest, against Jesus. But no one does the story better than Luke.

One of the criminals who hung there hurled insults at him. “Aren’t you the Christ? Save yourself and us!”
But the other criminal rebuked him. “Don’t you fear God,” he said, “since you are under the same sentence? We are punished justly, for we are getting what our deeds deserve. But this man has done nothing wrong.”
Then he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.”
Jesus answered him, “I tell you the truth, today you will be with me in paradise” (Luke 23:39-43). (Emphasis mine)

Three major discrepancies can be noted here. First, Luke called the two men criminals and not bandits. This changed the two into common criminals and not part of a religious or political movement — the Fourth Philosophy. Second, one of the criminals hurled insults but the other now sided with Jesus, exonerating Jesus from any guilt. Third, this second criminal was pardoned by Jesus, a Pauline move. Jesus always preached a lifelong commitment to God. All of a sudden, he now accepted deathbed conversions. Again, Luke added this story to make Jesus accept the Pauline notion of being saved by faith, not by works.

39. The Continuing Movements
The movements continued after the deaths of Judas the Galilean and Jesus. Interestingly, Acts downplayed the movement of Judas the Galilean, claiming Judas was killed “and all his followers were scattered” (Acts 5:37). In reality, the Fourth Philosophy of Judas did not end with Judas’ death but grew to a great degree according to Josephus (Ant. 18.1-10). So the speech by Gamaliel in Acts was an attempt by Luke to alter history. Luke did not want people to associate the rebellious Jews with the Gentile Jesus of Nazareth Movement of the second century. It is true, however, that when the story of Acts was written (early second century), the followers of Judas the Galilean had been smashed and scattered.

40. Expansion of the Movements
The movements of Judas and Jesus expanded throughout the Roman Empire. The Fourth Philosophy of Judas was responsible for the war against Rome. Although centered in Jerusalem and Galilee, Judas’ followers were numbered throughout the Empire and suffered greatly during the Jewish war. Paul’s Gentile churches were scattered amongst the great cities, but the Jewish Jesus Movement must have been much greater. While Paul was the lone apostle to the Gentiles, the influence of Cephas and others surely reached a great multitude. In fact, the early Jesus Movement placed most of its resources in the “conversion” of the Jewish community to the Way of Righteousness.

Note that Suetonius tied the rebellious, trouble-making Jews to Chrestus or Christ (Suetonius, The Twelve Caesars, Claudius 25), a passage that definitively connected the Fourth Philosophy to Christ. While this particular disturbance was at Rome, certainly all large Jewish congregations of the Diaspora had elements sympathetic to the nationalism of Judas the Galilean (Jesus). Near the end of the Jewish War, Josephus wrote that after the destruction of Masada (73 CE), some Sicarii had escaped to Alexandria where they attempted to gain support from the Alexandrian Jews to rebel against the Romans. This attempt only makes sense if some sympathy already existed for their Movement. However, they were rebuffed by the majority of Alexandrian Jews — caught, tortured and killed by the authorities (War 7.407-419).

41. Genuine Christians
In Pliny the Younger’s letter to Trajan, he wrote that genuine Christians could not be forced to worship Caesar’s image or any of the pagan deities. (10) Josephus wrote that the followers of Judas the Galilean “say that God is to be their only Ruler and Lord” and that not even the fear of death could “make them call any man Lord” (Ant. 18:23). Pliny’s genuine Christians were indistinguishable from Josephus’ Fourth Philosophy.

42. Dead Sea Scroll Language
For years after the 1947 Dead Sea Scrolls discovery, many scholars maintained that the Scrolls belonged exclusively to a religious sect known as the Essenes. However, in recent years, other information has shaken such a view.

Dead Sea Scroll materials were found at Masada and belonged to the Sicarii (Fourth Philosophy). Whether or not the Sicarii wrote the Scrolls is not in question. The important point is that the Sicarii used the Scrolls and the ideas within.

In various works, Robert Eisenman maintains that the early Jewish Jesus disciples relied heavily on the Dead Sea Scroll concepts, giving many examples of how Paul and the Gospels inverted these very concepts to further their antinomian message.

So, the only thing that we know for sure is that the Fourth Philosophy and the Jewish Jesus Movement were both well versed in the Scroll language.


Many have concluded that a Jesus never existed because little evidence supports this Messiah figure in the timeframe generally accepted by scholars, around 30-33 CE. Too many problems exist with this late date, and no corroboration comes from the only Jewish historian of the time — Flavius Josephus. Could Josephus have missed the greatest story ever told? Considering that Josephus was born in the 30’s, it is inconceivable that he missed out on Jesus.

Josephus did chronicle another Messiah figure, the freedom fighter Judas the Galilean. Rabbi Judas was a great teacher who despised the ruling class and its association with Rome. This rebel led a tax revolt, cleansed the Temple, was pardoned in a prisoner release, was claimed Messiah and eventually died fighting the injustice of Rome. His death was not recorded by Josephus, an amazing omission considering Judas the Galilean was the driving force in the struggle against Rome. Josephus did record the deaths of Judas’ sons Simon and James by crucifixion and Menahem by stoning, and that of his grandson Eleazar, who committed suicide at Masada. Each time, Josephus emphasized the relationship between these individuals and Judas the Galilean. So why did Josephus omit Judas’ death? The answer is obvious: he did not omit the death of Judas. His account of Judas’ death was replaced by later Christians with the spurious passage about Jesus (TF – Ant. 18.63-64). The historical Messiah Judas the Galilean – not a mythical “Jesus of Nazareth” — suffered crucifixion under Pilate.

The above similarities between Judas and Jesus should convince the reader that a bait and switch game has occurred. The biography of Judas the Galilean was transformed into the history of Jesus of Nazareth. Could there have been two separate individuals who experienced such similar events? The odds would be incalculable. So we are left with the only logical conclusion: Jesus of Nazareth was invented to distance the rebel Judas the Galilean from the Jewish religion. The catalyst for this ingenious attempt of history building was the apostle Paul, the man known as the Liar, the Enemy and the Traitor, whose theology survived through Jesus of Nazareth, not that of Judas the Galilean. The greatest Jewish teacher of first-century Israel has long been forgotten, his glory usurped by a literary character, Jesus of Nazareth.

1. Slavonic Josephus, After War 1.400.
2. Ibid., After War 2.110.
3. Ibid., After War 2.110.
4. Pseudoclementine Recognitions 1.53-54.
5. John Dominic Crossan and Jonathan L. Reed, Excavating Jesus, p. 18.
6. Slavonic Josephus, After War 1.650.
7. Hyam Maccoby, Revolution in Judaea, p. 19 and p. 222 (note 3).
8. G. A. Williamson and E. Mary Smallwood, The Jewish War, Appendix A, p. 461.
9. John Dominic Crossan and Jonathan L. Reed, Excavating Jesus, p. 174.
10. Pliny Epp. X (ad Traj.), xcvi. This translation was by Henry Bettenson.

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Foreword to “Judas of Nazareth” – Barrie Wilson

Foreword by Barrie Wilson
Professor Emeritus and Senior Scholar, Religious Studies, York University, Toronto

Scholars have spent years investigating the problem of the historical Jesus, that is, how can we now reliably know what the Jesus of history said and did when Jesus himself wrote nothing, and the Gospels were written at least 40 to 70 years after his death, composed in light of Paul’s mythologized Christ of faith? The problem becomes compounded when we also realize that the Gospels themselves disagree on key elements: What was Jesus’ genealogy? Did he undergo John’s baptism for the remission of sin? Did he teach strict Torah-observance? What were the charges against him? Who was responsible for his execution? What were his last words on the cross? And so on. Moreover, there are also Gospels not included in the New Testament, those from the Gnostic as well as the Ebionite Christian traditions.

Dan Unterbrink’s insightful book argues that scholars have been looking for Jesus in all the wrong places. Jesus really is a composite figure, a strategic blend of the historical revolutionary Judas the Galilean with the Christ figure, a divine-human who spoke in and through Paul. This re-imaged figure, “Jesus of Nazareth,” was created for polemical purposes in the late 1st century CE as Judaism faced the task of reconstruction after 70 CE; as Jewish revolutionary messianic movements waned; and as Paul’s religion of faith in the Christ succeeded. Far removed from a Jewish milieu, the Gospel authors needed to paint a picture of Jesus more relevant to potential Roman, non-Jewish converts than a Torah-observant Jewish freedom fighter. Many of these would have ventured into Gentile Christianity from pagan backgrounds, from the worship of Mithras, Dionysus or Isis for instance. For them, Paul’s Christ figure would have been immediately recognizable. So the Jesus of the New Testament is a real person, rooted in early 1st century messianic fervor, but covered over with a mystery religion veneer. No wonder the historical Jesus has been so difficult to uncover.

Follow Unterbrink’s skillful detective work, honed as a forensic auditor for many years, experienced in looking behind complex and sometimes confusing documents to the truth they cover over. Just like financial records, the real meaning lies hidden beneath the writings of the Gospels, the Book of Acts and Paul’s letters. All it takes is a suspicious investigator with a nose for the truth … and for documents that deceive or deflect. Consider the independent testimony of Unterbrink’s outside expert, the Jewish-Roman historian of antiquity, Josephus, whose writings are often overlooked by New Testament students. Dan Unterbrink’s block-by-block building of evidence will take you on an exciting intellectual journey into the real identity of Jesus.

If Jesus is modeled, in part, on the Jewish revolutionary Judas the Galilean, then an earlier dating is required than the one presented in the Gospels. Instead of the conventional birth of Jesus around 5 or 4 BCE/BC, before the death of Herod the Great, and a death around 30 CE/AD, this book argues that the dating has to be backtracked by more than a decade. This would place Judas the Galilean/Jesus within the 25 BCE to 19 CE timeframe and would position him alongside other messianic figures such as Simon of Perea and Athronges. Clearly these were troubled times and Jews everywhere longed for the overthrow of the Roman regime and the establishment of the Kingdom of God. That yearning built upon ancient Jewish hopes for a better world, one in which God would be worshipped by all humanity, the Messiah King would rule over Jerusalem, peace would be enjoyed, and the righteous rewarded with everlasting life. That was the dream, and many Jewish leaders emerged to help God bring about this new world order.

Judas of Nazareth starts by orienting the reader in the political and revolutionary world of Judea in the early 1st century CE, tracing what we can reliably know of Judas the Galilean and his revolutionary movements from Jewish and Roman sources. It is within this context that we can now understand what Josephus calls “the Fourth Philosophy,” the complex mix of radicals who went by different names—Zealots, Sicarii, members of the Dead Sea Scroll community, Essenes, and, yes, the first Jewish followers of Jesus, the group scholars call ‘the Jesus Movement.’ All these groups hoped for—and worked towards—a transformed world, one in which they’d enjoy freedom from Roman rule and colonization, liberated from Roman taxation. It would be a time when the worship of the one true God could be carried out without fear of compromise.

The book then moves to Paul’s perspective, his political connections and his pro-Roman stance. Paul’s was a different religion from that fostered by the Jewish revolutionaries. Just how different Paul’s Christ Movement was from Jesus/Judas the Galilean and his radical followers, Unterbrink makes clear. The thoughtful reader will wonder how and why these two quite different movements ever became associated with each other in the minds of subsequent generations.

Most importantly, Judas of Nazareth shows for the first time the extent to which the four Gospels in the New Testament were written in light of the success of Paul’s Gentile religion. While this has been recognized for some time now, no one has demonstrated where and how each Gospel is dependent upon Paul’s perspective, his theology, and to some extent his experiences. This sleuthing clearly establishes that the Gospels cannot be treated as transcripts nor as actual history but as creative works of historical fiction. They are products of Paul’s mythologized Christ theology and their agenda is intended to serve the interests of the fledgling Gentile Christian communities. Not only is Jesus’ Jewish heritage muted, but these writings are at pains to distance him from fierce anti-Roman messianic fervor. Gone is the messianic excitement, replaced by a perspective that sees Jesus as the savior of all humanity.

So, according to Unterbrink, Jesus is not just Judas the Galilean but Judas rewritten. He is a messianic pretender, at odds with Rome, a strong advocate of Torah-observance, and a revolutionary bent on overthrowing the Roman Government. He is presented in the Gospels, however, as the anti-Torah pro-Roman Christ of faith along the lines envisioned by Paul with only a thin substratum of the revolutionary, political Judas the Galilean/Jesus of history lurking underneath. The composite figure in the Gospels gives us a sanitized hero fit for Gentile consumption. It’s a remarkable creation but one that the historically oriented reader should treat with extreme caution and skepticism.

Simultaneously this portrait of the Gospel Jesus both complicates and simplifies the quest for the historical Jesus. It complicates the task by rendering the Gospels themselves suspect documents in reconstructing the actual sayings of Jesus. They have been overwritten by the Pauline perspective of the Christ as a divine being, a savior come to rescue humanity and so a large portion of what they say can be dismissed as non-historical or even anti-historical. On the other hand, this portrait simplifies the task of searching for the historical Jesus by allowing us to discount this whitewashed perspective as alien to the Jesus/Judas of history who attempted to galvanize the Jewish people behind his vision of the coming Kingdom of God.

Unterbrink’s argument proceeds by way of similarities: X is similar to Y. This methodology represents interesting logical analysis. If there were only a few similarities, we could say with confidence that these are coincidences, X being sort of similar to Y. But when the similarities begin to multiply, then a pattern emerges. And that’s where the argument intrigues. What are we to make of these compounded similarities? Perhaps we will say, X and Y are somewhat the same. Even more radically, perhaps we will agree with Unterbrink and contend that X and Y are, in fact, not just somewhat the same but actually the same.

Judas of Nazareth is a catalyst for discussion. Some readers will agree with Unterbrink that the problem of the historical Jesus has been cracked … finally! Others may find that he has overstated the case, but even these readers will discover some insightful parallels and a wealth of history. At the very least, readers will come to see how radically different Paul was from anything resembling the Jesus of history and his revolutionary movement. Agree or disagree, the reader who investigates alongside Unterbrink will discover much that is new and worth pondering.

Those who like to explore, who value quests, who enjoy discovery, and who want an evidence-based faith—these are the readers who will find this book engaging and beneficial.

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Reviews for “Judas of Nazareth”

Here are two reviews for my new book, “Judas of Nazareth”. For more information on the book, go to

Also, listen to an interview concerning my new book, Judas of Nazareth.

Combining some of my ideas – such as Paul as Herodian and Josephus’ “Sadduk” as John the Baptist — with his own theory, Dan Unterbrink suggests a new and much earlier timeframe for Christian origins, claiming that “the Historical Jesus” was actually Judas the Galilean, a rebel Leader who came on the scene in 4 BC with the beginning of “the Zealot Movement”.

Not only does he claim that Jesus was a literary stand-in for Judas the Galilean, but that Paul may have been an active participant in the composition of the Gospel of Mark. Detailing the similarities between the Gospel “Jesus” and Paul’s own life and teachings, he claims the former to have simply been a clever blend of Judas the Galilean and Paul.

As he sees it, Christian scholarship as a whole has been searching for characters such as “Jesus” and Paul in the wrong places. In so doing, he gives his readers much to consider, while at the same time challenging what they have always taken to be “the Gospel Truth” and the traditional view.

Robert Eisenman, author of James the Brother of Jesus and The New Testament Code,
Professor Emeritus, California State University Long Beach.

I love Daniel Unterbrink’s analytical style in Judas of Nazareth! His experience as a forensic auditor really shows through. Having been a record keeper and auditor myself for some of the world’s largest corporate retirement plans, I can appreciate that level of detail as I watch him weave through a maze of deception while excavating a mountain of covered-over facts. Ultimately he digs up several kernels of truth hidden deep beneath the surface, but those kernels are huge in terms of their significance.

As a lifetime Evangelical Christian and passionate lover of Christ who has read the Bible from cover to cover many times, I decided to start researching early church history over five years ago in an attempt to figure out where and when the church had gone wrong. Last year when my focus turned toward finding the historical Jesus, like Unterbrink I used hints from the pages of the New Testament in order to find him and the apostles. It was the hints about the “zealot” nature of the apostles that led me on a scavenger hunt through the Jewish Encyclopedia to find their true identities and then ultimately to Unterbrink’s previous works, Judas the Galilean and The Three Messiahs. It was in those books that I finally found one of the largest pieces to the Jesus puzzle: how the historical Judas the Galilean was blended into the mythological character of Jesus.

Here are some of my favorite highlights from this great book:
• How the Testimonium Flavianum was interpolated into Josephus’ Antiquities in the very spot where the crucifixion of Judas the Galilean should have been reported. (The comments about Jesus make absolutely no sense there and throw off the sequence of events. However, the report of Judas’ death would have fit in perfectly. )
• How a carefully reading of Josephus shows that it is the Sicarii who avenge the death of James, not the so-called Christians.
• How Paul’s theology was woven into the later-written gospels, especially using the Mithras and Dionysus myths. (In his next book I’d like to see Unterbrink address Matthew’s use of the Osiris/Horus myth and more of the astrological myths, such as the four gospels representing the four seasons [two solstices and two equinoxes] possibly based upon epistles of Apollonius of Tyana.)
• How two separate religious movements co-existed side by side and then split off with one later morphing into the other.
• The 42 similarities between Jesus of Nazareth and Judas the Galilean! Brilliant!
As I continue to put my Jesus puzzle together with other historical characters, I feel certain that my Judas the Galilean piece has been solidly inserted into place thanks to Dan Unterbrink!

Miriam Moss,
Amateur scholar and avid researcher of early Christianity
(Summa Cum Laude graduate of a Jesuit university)

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Judas of Nazareth

My new book, Judas of Nazareth, will be published by Bear & Company, available March 24, 2014.  This book goes beyond “The Three Messiahs” and presents many new and interesting ideas concerning the Gospels.  For example, the scholarly invention of Q is examined. See my new website for additional details:

Daniel T. Unterbrink
Author of Judas of Nazareth, available from these booksellers:

For additional information concerning Judas the Galilean, Sadduc and Theudas, go to my new website:

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The Stoning of James the Just

For additional information concerning Judas the Galilean, Sadduc and Theudas, go to my new website:

Welcome to The Three Messiahs’ blog.  Hopefully, this blog will introduce you to many issues concerning Christian origins.  I have selected a small sample of topics covered in the book which may whet your appetite for more.  The Three Messiahs will answer the following and much more:

1.  Who was the historical Jesus?

2. Did Barabbas and Judas Iscariot really exist or were they inventions of the Gospel writers?

3. Did John the Baptist outlive Jesus?

4. Why did Acts omit the stoning of James, the brother of Jesus, in 62 CE? (see analysis below)

If you enjoy this blog, please share it with colleagues, friends and family. For more information on my new book, Judas of Nazareth, see my website at:

Thank you,

Daniel T. Unterbrink


One of the most important and controversial passages in Josephus concerns the stoning of James, the brother of Jesus. Two distinct viewpoints exist today, from the Mythicists and from the Traditionalists. The existence of a family member is tantamount to proving the reality of the Jesus figure in history. That is why there are such radically different views on this subject.

Before examining the two viewpoints, it would be wise to look at Josephus’ passage concerning James.

…Ananus was of this disposition, he thought he had now a proper opportunity [to exercise his authority]. Festus was now dead, and Albinus was but upon the road; so he [Ananus] assembled the sanhedrin of judges, and brought before them the brother of Jesus, who was called Christ, whose name was James, and some others, [or, some of his companions]; and when he had formed an accusation against them as breakers of the law, he delivered them to be stoned. (Ant. 20.200) (Emphasis mine)

It would be beneficial to have some background of the circumstances surrounding James’ death. The high priest at the time was Ananus, the son of the famous high priest Annas, who served from 6-15 CE, being the first person who examined Jesus after the arrest, per John 18:12-14. Thus, there was a historical link between the deaths of Jesus and this James. The authenticity of the highlighted section of the passage has been questioned by many over the years. Was “the brother of Jesus” added, or was “who was called Christ” added, or was the passage simply as stated? Considering that Josephus never mentioned a Messiah figure named Jesus, “the brother of Jesus” was probably a later interpolation. Josephus obviously did not consider this “Jesus” as the Messiah, so the passage “who was called Christ” may very well be genuine. Now if the passage read “who was the Christ”, then we would be assured that this was counterfeit, as Josephus attributed the “Star Prophecy” to Vespasian, not to any Jewish leader. My solution for this passage would read as such: “the brother of Judas the Galilean, who was called Christ.” Note that Josephus always referred back to Judas the Galilean when mentioning a son or grandson. (Ant. 20.102; War 2.433; War 7.253) It is not wild speculation to assume that Josephus was referring back to James’ brother, Judas, as he had done in the cases mentioned above.


As mentioned earlier, the Mythicists believe that this passage does not refer to the brother of the Lord, the brother of Jesus or the brother of Judas the Galilean. Some claim that the interpolation was the phrase “who was called Christ.” They also claim that the “Jesus” referred to was Jesus, the son of Damneus. This revelation of pure genius rests on the position of the two names. In the above passage about James, there is a reference to a Jesus. After the removal of Ananus from the high priesthood due to complaints about his unholy actions, the newly arrived governor, Albinus, appointed Jesus, son of Damneus to the high priesthood. This strained interpretation has James being the brother of the high priest Jesus and the son of Damneus. There are several reasons to doubt that the James of Ant. 20.200 was the brother of Jesus, the son of Damneus (Ant. 20.203).

First, this James and his companions were put to death on the orders of Ananus, who was the son of the former high priest, Annas. The former high priest ruled from 6-15 CE and had five sons who enjoyed the high priest position. The elder Annas held the position during the lifetime of Judas the Galilean, being mentioned in the Gospel of John, concerning the interrogation of Jesus. It seems that there is more of a connection between the brother of Judas/Jesus and Ananus than with the brother of another Jesus, the son of Damneus. In addition, the name Jesus in connection to James may be a later interpolation as Josephus never wrote about Jesus, the Christ. (The spurious “Jesus passage” (Ant. 18.63-64) is undoubtedly a later Christian interpolation).

James and his companions were accused of having broken the Law. Josephus often referred to the Fourth Philosophy as bandits and breakers of the law. (It seems as if Ananus was attacking a group as opposed to a single individual.) In addition, many of the citizens did not approve of Ananus’ actions and petitioned Albinus, which resulted in Agrippa removing the high priesthood from Ananus. If this were simply a quarrel gone wrong between two upper class families, the outcry from the citizens would not have been so vehement.

After being removed from the high priesthood, Ananus “cultivated the friendship of Albinus, and the high priest [Jesus], by making them presents.” (Ant. 20.205) If Ananus had murdered the son of Damneus, then the making of friends with another son of Damneus seems absurd. In addition, Ananus later worked with the other wealthy families and high priests to cheat the lower priests of their meager tithes, so that the poor priests “died from want of food.” (Ant. 20.207) This being the case, there is no way that Ananus would have condemned another wealthy individual; he would have just bought him off, just like he did everyone else.

Shortly after Jesus, the son of Damneus, was made high priest, he was removed and replaced by Jesus, the son of Gamaliel. (Ant. 20.213) Since the name Jesus is the only thing tying James to Damneus, why should James not be tied to Gamaliel as well? Or is the name Jesus just a coincidence between James and Damneus? (Jesus was not an uncommon name.)

After Ananus put James and his companions to death, the Sicarii began kidnapping relatives of Ananus for trade. (Ant. 20.208-211) In short, not only had Ananus put James to death, he also held other Sicarii in prison. Note that Ananus not only arrested James but some of his companions as well. It is my contention that James was part of the Fourth Philosophy, part of the Sicarii. In this, he was no different than Menahem (son of Judas the Galilean) or Eleazar (leader at Masada and a grandson of Judas). Thus, James had no connection to a priestly party, no connection to Damneus!

The stoning of James was part of the early Church tradition. The book of Acts rewrites the story in its account of Stephen (Acts 7). Shortly after the death of Stephen, Saul began to persecute the church. It should not be missed that Saul persecuted those weaker than himself shortly after the stoning of James. (Ant. 20.214) So even though the Acts’ version is fiction, it was based upon an historical event. This may be the strongest piece of evidence against the Mythicist theory. Certainly, this James was an important part of the “Jesus” story or it would not have been reshaped and placed in the book of Acts.


James, the brother of Jesus, holds a strange position in the history of the Church. On the one hand, Acts downplayed and even ignored James. On the other hand, James’ earthly relationship to Jesus was the only real proof that a flesh and blood Jesus ever lived. Paul, of course, mentioned James in his letter to the Galatians. In this letter, James was honored as one of the Pillars of the Church and was the one responsible for Paul’s removal from the movement. James was leader of the circumcision group. (Gal. 2:9-12) So there was real motive for the author of Acts to downplay James’ role in the Church while elevating Paul’s role.

Most Christian scholars and historians claim that the stoning of James was not recorded in the book of Acts. They claim that the New Testament Church history ended with Paul’s imprisonment in Rome, somewhere between 60-62 CE, conveniently before the death of James (62 CE). First, we must ask ourselves: why would the author of Acts stop his history right before the death of James, the undisputed leader of the movement from the time of Paul to 62 CE? It makes no sense whatsoever, unless of course, the stoning of James was purposely ignored or more ingeniously, hidden from clear view.

In his book, James the Brother of Jesus, Robert Eisenman writes that the stoning of Stephen was simply a rewrite of the stoning of James. (1) In essence, the death of James was included in Acts’ convoluted history, although placed in the late 30’s opposed to the proper date of 62 CE. In both accounts, Saul persecuted those weaker than himself after the respective deaths of Stephen and James. If it were not for many other rewrites in Acts, it would be easy to say that the deaths of Stephen and James were just coincidental. However, with one rewrite after another, this argument becomes quite weak. (See Chapter 14 for an analysis of Acts).

Not only was the death of James hidden from view in Acts, but his role in the early Church was obscured in the Gospels and Acts. In the Gospels, the brothers of Jesus were no better than the brothers of Joseph, who sold Joseph into slavery. In the Synoptic Gospels, Jesus’ family was often associated with those who did not believe in Jesus. (Mk. 3:20-21; 3:31-35) In fact, they said, “He is out of his mind.” In John 7:1-10, Jesus’ brothers urged him to go to Jerusalem, to a certain death. This was done out of jealousy and unbelief. James fared no better in the book of Acts. When Jesus (Judas the Galilean) had just been crucified, the apostles picked a replacement. According to later traditions, this replacement was James the Just. However, according to Acts, Matthias replaced the mythical Judas Iscariot. (Judas Iscariot will be examined in Part III – Chapter 17). Later, in Acts 15, at the Council of Jerusalem, James miraculously became the leader of the movement. If it were not for the letter of Galatians, the author of Acts would have no doubt created another leader. The acknowledgment of James in Acts 15 was grudgingly given, but even his role was overshadowed by Paul, who would have been an inconsequential part of the Jerusalem Council.

The reason that James was discounted in the Gospels and Acts stems from the persecutions that the early Christians were undergoing in the late first and early second centuries. The main purpose of the Gospels was to show Jesus in an acceptable light to a pro-Roman audience. Therefore, the familial ties between Jesus and his family had to be broken. (This will be fully explained in Part III.). The brother connection had a close parallel with the Maccabees, those brothers who fought an occupying force between two and three centuries earlier. Thus, James was given only the slightest credit for his role in the early church.

But James was afforded much more credit in other sources. Here is a sample from Eusebius, who quoted the fifth book of Hegesippus. (Hegesippus was a second-century Christian historian while Eusebius wrote in the first half of the fourth century.)

Control of the Church passed to the apostles, together with the Lord’s brother, James, whom everyone from the Lord’s time till our own has called the Righteous, …So they went up and threw down the Righteous one. Then they said to each other, “Let us stone James the Righteous”, and began to stone him, as in spite of his fall he was still alive. But he turned and knelt, uttering the words: I beseech Thee, Lord God and Father, forgive them; they do not know what they are doing. (Eusebius, Tiberius to Nero, Book 2.23.4,17)

Note that James was accorded special recognition by Hegisippus, in that he stressed the term Righteous in relation to James. He said that everyone knew him as “Righteous”. It is also quite revealing that James forgave his own murderers, saying, “…Father, forgive them; they do not know what they are doing.” This same act of forgiveness was placed into the mouth of Stephen, the stand-in for James in the book of Acts. This Stephen said, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them.” (Acts 7:60) The early Church historians did not quite understand that the even earlier Gospel and Acts writers had hidden James in their text. Time certainly can hide many misdeeds.

The New Testament discounted James the Just, but early Church historians knew of his legendary status in the movement. If he had been restored, then why do so many current Christians have so little knowledge of James? The answer is two-fold. First, the Catholic Church attached itself to Peter, giving him preeminence due to the passage in Matthew 16:18 where Jesus said to Peter: “And I tell you that you are Peter [rock], and on this rock I will build my church.” The Papacy was developed through this passage and James the Just was lowered a level. The second reason has to do with the Protestant movement’s reverence for the New Testament. Most liberal and conservative Protestant churches preach the infallibility of the Scriptures. This being the case, James the Just became a nonentity. Thus, both the Catholic and Protestant churches discount James today.


Of the above two scenarios for James, the Tradition viewpoint, which supports the familial relationship between “Jesus” and James, appears the more reasonable. The Mythicist argument is extremely weak and is made simply because any familial relationship between the two men, Jesus and James, destroys their theory concerning the nature of Jesus: that he never really existed. This, I believe, is utter nonsense. The connection between James and “Jesus” is confirmed by the rewriting of the story in the book of Acts (Stephen’s stoning). But the Traditional viewpoint also has its own problems. The greatest weakness has to do with the lack of information anywhere in Josephus describing the traditional Christian movement. The one passage about Jesus, in Ant. 18.63-64, is an obvious interpolation, according to a majority of scholars. However, I am the only one who insists that the “Jesus” interpolation is really a replacement passage for the death of Judas the Galilean.

If I am right concerning the “Jesus” passage, then Josephus never mentioned the Gospel Jesus in his history. This is extraordinary, considering that a major religion supposedly sprang from the Gospel Jesus. And if Josephus never mentioned Jesus, then he did not refer back to Jesus when describing the stoning of James. I believe that the original passage about James referred back to Judas the Galilean. This makes much more sense since Josephus always referred back to Judas when writing about his relatives. A few examples are as follows:

…the sons of Judas the Galilean were now slain; I mean of that Judas who caused the people to revolt, when Cyrenius came to take an account of the estates of the Jews, as we have shown in a foregoing book. The names of those sons were James and Simon, whom Alexander commanded to be crucified. (Ant. 20.102)

Meanwhile one Menahem, son of Judas the Galilean, the very clever rabbi who in the time of Quirinius [Cyrenius] had once reproached the Jews for submitting to the Romans after serving God alone, took his friends with him and went off to Masada, where he broke open King Herod’s armory and distributed weapons to his fellow-townsmen and bandits. With these as bodyguards he returned like a king to Jerusalem, put himself at the head of the insurgents and took charge of the siege. (War 2.433-434)

It was one Eleazar, a potent man, and the commander of these Sicarii, that had seized upon it [Masada]. He was a descendant [grandson in Slavonic Josephus] from that Judas who had persuaded abundance of the Jews, as we have formerly related, not to submit to the taxation when Cyrenius was sent into Judea to make one…. (War 7.253)

Josephus constantly referred back to Judas when introducing his sons and grandsons. The same was no doubt true for any brother who was important enough to be part of the history. The passage about James stated: “and brought before them the brother of Jesus, who was called Christ, whose name was James and some others…” This reference back to Jesus, who was called Christ could have really been “Judas, who claimed to be the Messiah.” At least, this makes sense when viewing the above passages about Josephus’ treatment of Judas.

If James were the brother of Judas the Galilean, then he was the uncle of Menahem, a leader of the Sicarii in 66 CE. This would make James the leader of the Sicarii in 62 CE, at the time of his death. This would ensure that my Judas the Galilean theory is correct. Is there anything which ties James to the Sicarii? Before answering this question, it should be noted that there is nothing in the passage which connects James to the Gospel Jesus. So what does Josephus really say about the whole issue of James?

There must have been a strong motive for Ananus, the high priest, to take the opportunity to have James killed. As noted above, Ananus was the son of the famous high priest Annas. Josephus tells us that this elder Annas had five sons who performed the high priest duties. The New Testament also states that Caiaphas was the son-in-law of Annas. Thus, it is quite plain that Annas and his family were well connected and very powerful. Annas had been appointed high priest in 6 CE, roughly the same time as Judas the Galilean’s tax revolt. Surely, the animosity between Annas and his family and Judas’ movement started very early. But is this the only reason for Ananus to attack James?

A few years before the stoning of James, under the governorship of Felix, Jonathan, another son of Annas, was high priest. Jonathon often criticized Felix on his unjust administration of Jewish affairs, giving Felix reason to hate the high priest. Felix planned the murder of Jonathon, using the Sicarii as assassins. Josephus even went as far as blaming this assassination for the reason why Jerusalem was eventually destroyed. (Ant. 20.160-166) Needless to say, the murder of Jonathan by the Sicarii may have added to the hatred of Ananus towards James, the leader of the Sicarii.

Motive for murder existed on the family level for Ananus. But were there any other reasons behind his actions? Agrippa II appointed Ananus as high priest after the death of Festus (62 CE). Thus, Agrippa II gave Ananus the position while the new governor, Albinus, was still on the road to Jerusalem. Did this appointment of Ananus have any strings attached to it? It should be noted that Agrippa’s father, Agrippa I, had died in 44 CE, most likely from poison. (In Part II, we will examine Agrippa I more closely.) But for now, let us assume that the Fourth Philosophy was responsible for the poisoning. This murder of Agrippa I would have been reason enough for Agrippa II to take revenge upon James.

Agrippa II may have had even more reason to kill James. Agrippa built himself a large dining room which overlooked the Temple. While reclining and eating, Agrippa could observe the Temple machinations. This joy was taken away by the Jews who built a wall which disrupted the view. Agrippa and Festus were both displeased by the wall and sought to have it torn down. However, the Jews petitioned Nero and he ruled on their part as a favor to his wife, Poppea, herself a religious woman. (Ant. 20.189-197) Upon hearing the verdict, Agrippa II appointed Joseph high priest. This Joseph was subsequently replaced by Ananus upon the death of Festus.

One other clue may tie Agrippa II to the stoning of James. This concerns the person known as Saul in both the Antiquities and in Acts. After the stoning of Stephen, Acts 8:1 stated: “And Saul was there, giving approval to his death.” As noted earlier, the stoning of Stephen was merely a rewrite of the stoning of James. If this is true, then Saul approved of the stoning of James. After the stoning of James, as recorded in Antiquities, Josephus had this to say about Saul:

…a sedition arose between the high priests, with regard to one another: for they got together bodies of the boldest sort of the people, and frequently came, from reproaches, to throwing of stones at each other; but Ananus was too hard for the rest, by his riches, – which enabled him to gain those that were most ready to receive. Costobarus also, and Saulus, did themselves get together a multitude of wicked wretches, and this because they were of the royal family; and so they obtained favor among them, because of their kindred to Agrippa, but still they used violence with the people, and were very ready to plunder those that were weaker than themselves. (Ant. 20.214) (Emphasis mine)

This action by Saul against the lower level priests was a plain money grab. Saul aligned himself with Ananus and his kinsman, Agrippa II. It should be noted that the Fourth Philosophy was aligned with the poor and the lower priesthood. Thus, the stoning of James, the leader of the Fourth Philosophy, was the beginning of the war by the wealthy priests against the poorer ones. (Ant. 20.206-207) This case for Saul’s complicity with James’ murder can be further strengthened by using the rewrite in Acts.

Meanwhile, Saul was still breathing out murderous threats against the Lord’s disciples. He went to the high priest and asked him for letters to the synagogues in Damascus, so that if he found any there who belonged to the Way, whether men or women, he might take them as prisoners to Jerusalem. (Acts 9:1-2)

This part of history from 62 CE was transported back to 35 CE to make Saul’s unholy actions appear as a pre-conversion tirade against the disciples. In fact, this hatred for James and the Jewish Christian movement (Fourth Philosophy) had been growing steadily after Saul’s/Paul’s removal from the movement at Antioch (See Galatians). This incredible deception by the author of Acts has worked well throughout the centuries. Saul is now viewed as a young man who finally saw the light. In reality, he was a bitter old man who exacted revenge against those who had much earlier rejected his own Gospel.

One question which has always been asked is this: how could the young Saul have so much sway with the high priest? The answer is very simple. Saul was not young and he had aligned himself to Ananus and his kinsman, Agrippa. This alliance with the power structure armed Saul with power to do as he wished. Acts’ version of history has once again proved to be inaccurate, but it does leave behind snippets of truth. Saul did persecute the Way, just as Josephus said that he and his followers persecuted “those that were weaker than themselves.” (Ant. 20.214) In Part II, we will determine that Saul/Paul was not only the Liar and Enemy but the Traitor as well.

Before ending this section, we should look at the overall flow of Josephus’ account, before and after the stoning of James. As described above, Agrippa II had a history of bad relations with the Fourth Philosophy, starting with the poisoning of his father. The wall affair was perhaps the last straw; someone would pay for this insult. But how did Agrippa II assign blame for this insult? How did he know to blame James? The answer to this question may be quite surprising. Saul, the kinsman of Agrippa, had many quarrels of his own with James (See 1 and 2 Corinthians and Galatians). As it turned out, James and his circumcision party had severed Saul/Paul from the Jewish Christian movement. This did not sit well with Saul, and his revenge came at the expense of James’ life. Saul, no doubt, was instrumental in convincing Agrippa to eliminate James. The opportunity for action soon arrived; the death of Festus created a power vacuum which would last until the arrival of Albinus. Perhaps Agrippa asked the high priest, Joseph, to eliminate James. When this did not return dividends, a new high priest was appointed, that being Ananus, who “was a bold man in his temper, and very insolent.” (Ant. 20.199) It was this Ananus who carried out the orders of Agrippa, and James was stoned. Shortly after this death sentence, the Sicarii began kidnapping members of Ananus’ family and household, demanding that Ananus persuade Albinus to release members of their own party, the release of Sicarii members. (Ant. 20.208-210) This shows that the Sicarii blamed Ananus for the death of James and would make him pay as long as possible.


The unholy alliance of Agrippa II, Ananus and Saul helped seal the fate of James the Just, brother of Judas the Galilean, who himself was known as the Messiah or Christ. This James was a powerful figure in the early Jewish Christian movement (Fourth Philosophy). James’ association with “Jesus” was known to all early Christian historians, although none knew of his relationship with the Sicarii, or the Fourth Philosophy. But a simple reading of Josephus places this James in the midst of conflicts between the wealthy rulers (Agrippa, Ananus and Saul) and the poor and downtrodden. These poor were members of a revolutionary party called the Fourth Philosophy by Josephus and later derisively labeled as the Sicarii (assassins who carried a short curved knife or sica). It is not surprising that James was killed but how difficult it was to kill him. It took a king (Agrippa II), a high priest (Ananus), an informer (Saul) and good fortune (the death of Festus) to set up the opportunity to silence James. Until now, nobody has ever implicated Agrippa or Saul in the death of James. But I think that the evidence is too strong to ignore any longer.

1. Robert Eisenman, James the Brother of Jesus, pp. 154-184.

Daniel T. Unterbrink
Author of Judas of Nazareth, available from these booksellers:
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Events in Jesus’ Life – Feeding the Five Thousand


No Gospel story can more illustrate the problems associated with the traditional interpretation than the miraculous feeding of the four and five thousand. The feeding of the five thousand can be found in Mark 6:30-44, Matthew 14:13-21 and Luke 9:10-17. The accounts of this miracle are quite similar in that Jesus fed 5,000 men, as well as women and children, from five loaves of bread and two small fish. When the crowd had finished their meal, the disciples gathered scraps totaling twelve basketfuls of broken pieces. This, indeed, was a miracle from God. Jesus had created matter out of thin air, or rather, he had multiplied the existing loaves and fish into a much greater number. This was not a trick seen every day.

The feeding of the four thousand was recorded by just Mark 8:1-21 and Matthew 15:29 – 16:12. The scenario for the four thousand was much similar to that of the five thousand: this time Jesus took seven loaves and some fish and fed the men, women and children. Afterwards, the disciples picked up seven basketfuls of broken pieces. Thus, the miracle had been reproduced, only on a slightly smaller scale.

If Jesus did feed the crowd, how did he do it? Certainly, he did not produce matter out of thin air. That is impossible! What then did he do? A closer investigation of the passages concerning the four thousand may shed some illuminating light. When Jesus saw the crowds, he had compassion for their physical needs. He ordered his disciples to gather their limited resources (seven loaves and a few fish) and to share them with one another and with the crowd. Now, we should ask: If Jesus and his disciples had seven loaves of bread and some fish, would it not be logical that some of the other people had some supplies as well? The example of sharing spurred the crowd to share with one another. Surely, no one went home with a full stomach, but each took what was necessary to sustain himself. Thus, the miracle had nothing to do with hocus-pocus or the magical production of food. The miracle, however, was just as amazing. Jesus convinced a large crowd to share their possessions with others, possibly complete strangers.

This interpretation is bolstered by further commentary by Jesus on the event. The accounts in Matthew and Mark will be reproduced because they do differ slightly.

“You of little faith, why are you talking among yourselves about having no bread? Do you still not understand? Don’t you remember the five loaves for the five thousand, and how many basketfuls you gathered? Or the seven loaves for the four thousand, and how many basketfuls you gathered? How is it that you don’t understand that I was not talking to you about bread? But be on your guard against the yeast of the Pharisees and the Sadducees.” Then they understood that he was not telling them to guard against the yeast used in bread, but against the teachings of the Pharisees and Sadducees. (Matt. 16:8-12) (Emphasis mine)

The disciples had forgotten to bring bread, except for one loaf they had with them in the boat. “Be careful,” Jesus warned them. “Watch out for the yeast of the Pharisees and that of Herod.” (Mark 8:14-15) (Emphasis mine)

Before making his comments about the yeast of the other religious groups, Jesus referred back to the feeding of the five and four thousand. These events should have taught the disciples a very important lesson: material things should be used to help others, not to simply hoard. The yeast of the power structure (the Romans, the Sadducees and the Herodians) was greed. To share was not in their lexicon. The act of sharing was proof of the Kingdom of God, for the kingdoms of this earth had never practiced it.

The Gospels confused the meaning of this message by including the Pharisees in the elite power structure. Surely, a few Pharisees peddled God for a profit, but that should not define the entire lot. According to Josephus, Judas the Galilean and the Sadduc were Pharisees, following the Pharisaic practices with one exception: they also preached nationalism, a cry for liberty from Rome. Josephus did not hide the fact that the movement of Judas pitted the poor against the wealthy. Judas was a champion of the poor. He did not become a champion by upholding the status quo. This, too, could be applied to Jesus in the feeding of the five and four thousand. So, the very thought that Jesus considered the Pharisees equal with the Sadducees and Herodians in their greed is ridiculous.

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Daniel T. Unterbrink
Author of Judas of Nazareth, available from these booksellers:

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