Monday, October 26, 2020

Did Jesus know John the Baptist?

Did Jesus know John the Baptist before and after the baptism?

Jesus and John were relatives. Their mothers were cousins. Jesus was baptised at the Jordan River, where John had suddenly appeared dressed in a camel-hair garment. This was an event that brought people from far and wide, including the Jerusalem elite.

Did Jesus know John before this event? How much did they meet afterwards? Both suffered violent deaths.
What is the background to this relationship in the turbulent times of Israel?
Context is important. This includes religious history, dates and politics. 1. Dating So it is important, vital, to understand the priestly and political events of the time and also the dates of the writings. Luke’s gospel was clearly written during the period of the high-priesthood of Theophilus, son of Annas, son of Seth. He reigned from 37 to 41. Luke addresses him as ‘kratiste,’ Most Excellent, using the title applied to governors etc. Theophilus was then in office. As high priest recognized by Rome, Theophilus was the ethnarch, ruler of the people. When Luke wrote the book of Acts for him, he was no longer in office and therefore not called ‘Most Excellent’, as this would be a slur and even be seen as a treasonous act to the high priest then in office. Luke reminds Theophilus of the facts. John had a miraculous birth as his mother was ‘in old age’, beyond the age of normal childbirth. Miriam the mother of Jesus was ALSO post-menstrual, Luke 1:36. Furthermore Jesus rose from the dead and there were many witnesses of it including Romans, Luke 1:1. See Jesus, James, Joseph and the Temple on 2. Why the shock of John? John’s appearance on Jordan was a shock event for the priestly dynastic family of Annas. The Jerusalem elite came to the banks of the Jordan. It brought up the nightmare, earlier events of the past, of which they were clearly guilty. What was the scandal? John and Jesus were born at the end of Herod’s despotic life. Two political events are important here. First, two scholars made an attempt to purify the Temple in anticipation of the prophesied coming of the Messiah. They pulled down a pagan eagle at the entrance to the Temple. It glorified the goddess Victory and the Roman legions. Then came a broader revolt which ended in armed Roman intervention and the bloody War of Varus. Thousands of the faithful were crucified. Sepphoris, the reclaimed northern capital in Galilee, was burnt and its inhabitants sold into slavery. 3. Murder in the Temple The Seth dynasty of priests seized power and supplanted the Boethusean priesthood by force and bloodshed. John’s father, Zacharias, was probably killed then ‘between the altar and the Holy Place.’ A subservient high priesthood was set up in Jerusalem as the Roman controller to keep a lid on religious revolt. Then Annas and the other sons of Seth changed some of the festival calendar and introduced other foreign Temple customs. 4. What’s in a name? The mothers of John and Jesus knew each other. Their fathers too. Troubles began with a religious dispute, escalated to civil war then bloody Roman destruction. How were John and Jesus affected by this bloody war and what were religious backgrounds of John and Jesus? History shows they left Israel in two different directions. Why? Safety and to provide double security for continuing the priestly line. Both John and Jesus derived their priestly prominence because of their high Aaronic pedigree. The names of their mothers show it. They were cousins and both ‘daughters of Aaron’ Luke 1:5. John’s mother was named Elizabeth (Hebrew Elisheva, the same as the name of Aaron’s wife) and Jesus’s Mariam in NT Greek (Hebrew Miriam, the name of the prophetess and sister of Aaron and Moses). Names were not, as today, chosen at random. They recalled verified genealogy. The women were cousins descended directly from Aaron (Luke 1:5). When the son was named Jechoniah and not Zacharias like his father, it caused shock and surprise. 'Fear came on all that dwelt round about' Jerusalem and Judea, Lk 1:65. Why? because it reflected back to the genealogy of Elisheva’s line, recalling Onias, the high priest in Jerusalem who fled to Egypt for safety when Antiochus Epiphanes desecrated the Temple, Josephus War, bk 1. Onias built a duplicate of the Temple at Heliopolis and taught priests the rituals so they would not be lost. John’s birth and naming revealed many secrets and exposed the guilty.
5. Herod initially tried to control the priesthood Note that, when Herod took power, there was no true Aaronic priest in office. Initially Herod, an enthusiastic pagan, had put into priestly office those without genealogical right to the Holy Place, says Josephus. The male Aaronic line had been killed off. But a son of a ‘daughter of Aaron’ could claim office because the grandfather was an Aaronic priest. When the NT stresses that Elizabeth and Mariam were both ‘daughters of Aaron’ it casts a slur on the genuineness of the priests that had seized office (Joshua son of Seth and Annas of Seth). It also implies that all the authentic sons of Aaron had been killed or were in hiding. 6. What family, what person was the last true Aaronic priest? Go back further. Two decades before their birth, Caesar Augustus had agreed to a peace treaty with its main enemy, Parthia, which was ruled by the Hebrew-speaking Arsacid dynasty, favourable to Israel and the Jews. It insisted on religious restoration too, including that of the high-priest dynasty. That treaty reshaped the world, till then divided in two. Parthia had trading relations as far as China and controlled parts of India. Under this historic pact, Rome agreed on the reconstruction of the Temple under the legitimate Aaronic priesthood of Sim(e)on Boethus. Herod was forced to concur. Simon returned from Egyptian exile to the shock of the nation. Simon had authenticated Aaronic pedigree. He wasn’t rich but he became the lever that broke Herod’s grip on power. Herod had married into the previous priestly dynasty, the Hasmoneans, hoping this would ensure loyalty of the population. He had forced a marriage to the daughter of that previous priestly house, even though priestly daughters were forbidden to marry outside the tribes of Israel. The Hasmonean priestly line had died out. The last one, Aristobulus, was killed by Herod’s Gauls. Herod put in place people who had no genealogical right to the office. The contrast was stark. Now it was clear that these fraudulent priesthoods had nothing to show compared to Simon’s. It was also obvious that they had become corrupt and Hellenised. Herod divorced this wife, Mariamne I, the last daughter from the Hasmonean/ Maccabee dynasty. Herod forced a further marriage. The daughter of Simon became his queen, Mariamne II. Who were these legitimate Boethusean priests who had taken shelter in Egypt during the wars and syncretic paganisation of the Maccabees? John’s naming showed he was part of the family. 7. Simon Boethus Simon remained high priest and reconstructed the Temple until he was retired by Herod just before the birth of Jesus. Boethus is probably not a name but the crude Greek version of his dynastic claim. It was also useful for this not to be too obvious as the priests that got killed first were those with the most authentic genealogy. What does Boethus signify? It is probably the Greek for Beth Yesse. That would imply that the Simonian priesthood were intermarried with the Davidic line. David was the son of Yesse. 8. Where did the child, Jesus, go? Forty days after his birth Jesus was presented in the Temple where he was received by Sim(e)on. He is described as righteous, the term used often for the authentic high-priestly family. He prophesies. Simeon praises God for the coming deliverance of the country through this child as Savior. Simon met the family in the Temple at the time of their purification ceremony and no doubt recorded the genealogical details in the archives as we see it in Matt 1 (Greek and Hebrew). The beginning of Matthew’s gospel dates from this time. Having disclosed in Bethlehem that he was of the family of David and heir to his throne, Joseph could no longer stay in Israel. Herod was becoming more and more crazed with acute disease, conspiracies and killing potential rivals. Jesus was taken to the same place where Simon had found safety against persecution. His father and mother took him to Egypt when he was a toddler, paidion. 9. Where did John go? What happened to John? Luke tells us diplomatically that he went East and 'dwelt in the desert' Lk 1:80. Matthew is more specific. At thirty he returned from exile dressed in the costume of that country. He wore a camel-hair garment and Hebrew Matthew adds a black leather belt (Roman leather was brown). See Why did John wear a camel-hair garment and a black belt? Parthia, the super-power in the East, had vast resources of camels and horses. They often went into battle with multiple thousand camels, the general himself having a baggage train of a thousand, according to Plutarch: Crassus #21 in Rawlinson’s Parthia. John’s dress implies he came directly from Parthia. (Hebrew Matthew is more specific.) It is unlikely that he previously met Jesus though he would obviously know of his relatives, equally under death threat, especially on the important topic of priestly succession. Jesus clearly came from a senior branch of Aaronic priests, although he was younger. ‘It behoves him (Jesus) to increase, but me to decrease,’ Jn 3:30. It was a matter of precedence and prophecy. 10. Why did John’s appearance on the Jordan make such an impact? Firstly he came out of exile from Rome’s hereditary enemy. Secondly he denounced the pro-Roman Quisling priesthood that displaced by force and bloodshed that of Simon the righteous. Thirdly, his own father Zacharias was probably killed by this clique, Matt 23:35. Fourthly, he preached repentance not revenge. He led the people to baptism as a sign of their already changed lives to virtue: burial of the past in the waters. Josephus Antiq 18,5,2 (117). Baptism signifies burial and resurrection to a new spiritual life. This was like the mikva a personal process in front of witnesses, not a dunking by a preacher to wash away sins. It is possible therefore that this was the first meeting of Jesus with his cousin since infancy. Their parallel lives came to the same conclusions and similar actions, reinforcing that God’s covenant with Israel demanded virtue and obedience to his laws. 11. Only 2 Rabbis in NT. In the Hebrew Yosippon – which may reflect the Hebrew version that Josephus says he sent to Parthia and Scythia before writing the Greek ‘Jewish War’ – John is called ‘Rabbi John the Baptist High Priest’. Yes, high priest.
He had right to this office through Elizabeth/ Elisheva not his father Zacharias. John is also called ‘Rabbi’ in the NT but it did not mean leader of a synagogue in the first century. All the documents and epigraphical remains of the period call the leader of the synagogue an archisynagogos or archon, as does the NT. ‘Rabbi’ means ‘anointed’ in Aramaic. Jesus is the only other person called Rabbi in first century literature. He is referred to more than a dozen times as priest or high priest in the book of Hebrews. He is also called Great Priest, Faithful High Priest (= Chief Priest) and Teacher, that is, the despotes of the Temple. The teacher was the controller of the Temple and it was off limits to Romans and non-Israelites. The Teacher is teaching high priests. He catechized priests like Theophilus in the Temple, Luke 1:4 Gk, katechethes. After his resurrection, James / Jacob, his brother, was in control of the Temple rituals. All early writers, like Hegesippus, Eusebius, Jerome and others, confirm that James as Sagan or Teacher was permitted to enter the Holy Place and pray there for Israel on a daily basis. 12. John as Family Defender, Goel. When Herod the Tetrarch seduced the wife of Herod (Philip) the son of Mariamne II, John risked and lost his life to defend the honor of the family. This incident is described in Josephus Antiq 18.5 (109) and in the NT in Matt 14. It was the duty of the goel, or Redeemer, as head of the family to right the wrongs of relatives and if necessary buy back a relative from slavery. In this case, Herod imprisoned him. The wife is named Herodias and Josephus names the daughter who requested the head of John the Baptist on a charger as Salome. This incident shows that John was indeed a high priest and related to Mariamne II, the daughter of Simon Boethus. 13. Seniority Thus we have two high priests of the authentic Aaronic family, John and Jesus, who grew up separately. John was raised in Parthia. Jesus in Egypt where Simon Boethus retained the true faith. He was then in Nazareth – the genealogical center of northern Israel, the Yeshana of Sepphoris. Why did John cede to Jesus? Firstly Jesus was anointed possibly by Simon in the Temple after his birth when Simeon declared he was the Messiah, then by John at the baptism with the heavenly signs and divine voice, Hebrew: bat kol. Secondly, Jesus had both high priestly pedigree through his mother and his father, and also royal blood through Joseph as the genealogy of Matt 1 shows. A king has the right over a high priest, for example, to dismiss him. 14. The ‘Essene’ incident Did John and Jesus meet much after the baptism event? There is little to say they did. The incident of Mt 11 where John in prison sends two disciples to enquire whether Jesus was definitely the Messiah, ‘the one to come’, suggests that they did not meet previously to discuss this. Jesus replies that the sick were being healed; the blind were given back their sight; lepers are cleansed, deaf hear and the dead are raised. That seems an extraordinary list ending with the dead being raised. But it does not end there. Jesus adds what to materialists may seem incongruous: ‘the poor have the Gospel preached to them.’ This is clearly more important than all the rest. It speaks of the coming Kingdom of God. What is also remarkable is that this unusual order of events is repeated in what is considered an Essean document among the Dead Sea Scrolls, 4Q521 called ‘Redemption and Resurrection.’ It says ‘The Eternal shall do glorious things that have not been done, just as he said. For he shall heal the critically wounded. He shall revive the dead. He shall send good news to the afflicted.’ This implies that both were in communication through this group who represented the combined royal line and priestly line in Israel.

Sunday, October 18, 2020

Why did Matthew write that Jesus was called Nazarene and thus fulfilled prophecy?

The Gospel of Matthew says that Joseph, Mariam and Jesus came to live in Nazareth. That fulfilled the words spoken by the prophets that 'He shall be called a Nazarene (Nazarean, Greek: nazooraios).'  So says Matt 2:23. 

What was the prophecy and where is it? Bible sceptics say that nowhere in the Bible is there such a prophecy written. They say that shows Matthew made up false stories. But these sceptics do not tend to point out that Matthew says the prophecy was spoken, not written.

But there is another grave error, a humongous one. In fact the prophecy encompasses more or less every prophecy ever written or spoken by Israelite prophets. 


There is a key factor that such commentators willingly leave out. They are too often microscopically concentrated on not only the letters of the text, (not even the meaning of the words). They become victims of unsubstantiated theories about how and when the gospel of Matthew was written. 

Let's first deal with the historical facts.    


What most commentators leave out is the historical context – Herodian despotism. Herod killed his own sons because he merely suspected them of disloyalty. How do you think he would react to everyone calling Jesus: Jesus the Messiah, the king, the rightful son of David, and only legitimate heir to rule Israel? 

Herod's Massacre of the Innocents (Kerold)

Herod's record was as clear as red blood on a white linen cloth. When it came to Jewish pretenders to what he considered his throne, given him by Rome, he wiped from the face of the earth anyone who could claim Davidic heritage. 

He burned the family archives and the city of Bethlehem. 

When Parthian Magi announced that the Davidic Messiah was born he ordered a baby genocide. He killed all children under two in an area from Bethlehem in the south to the northern suburbs of Jerusalem.

No one even dared to name a child David in Herod’s time.  

Joseph, Jacob, Simon, Judas, yes. 

David absolutely not.

What has this to do with Nazareth?

Imagine someone who supported the Czar in the time of Stalin’s USSR. Would they call the group, the ‘Czarist’ group? Would they proclaim: ‘I am a Czarist’?

They would be dead men. 

Subtly and truth are required. The prophets referred to in Matt 2 most obviously include those such as Isaiah, Ezekiel and Micah that refer to the Davidic Messiah – the Branch (Netzer) of David.

Why is Nazareth mentioned frequently in the NT and Nazarene describes the followers of Christ? The answer is the same to the question: why is the capital of Galilee, Sepphoris, not mentioned at all? 

Nazareth in Ceasarea inscription
of priestly courses

Sepphoris became a pagan Roman town. Nazareth was a suburb of the capital. The name of the town, Nazareth, was found on a stone tablet in Caesarea in 1962. It lists the priestly courses or mishmarot and their geographical assembly points. It is clear from the spelling Nazareth has nothing to do with the Nasarites of Num 6. 

Nazareth was holy. Sepphoris was unholy and Roman.  It was previously a center of rebellion. It had been the center of Israelites and Jews reclaiming their hereditary land after the return from Babylonian captivity. In a revolt against Roman oppression of their religious beliefs, the population had been slaughtered or sent into slavery. It had been rebuilt. Now it was ultra loyal to Herodian Rome.

Jews and Israelites still returned. According to Josephus, millions of the faithful attended the annual festivals in Jerusalem. Only those who could prove that they were legitimate Israelites with proven genealogy could attend. 

Talmudic sources say the genealogical history of all legitimate Israelites (and a few non-Israelites too) was found in the archives of the Depository (Jeshana) of Sepphoris.  It had pedigree records (copies or originals) of material Herod tried to destroy in the family archives in Jerusalem to assure his dominance. 

For priests and Israelites, 

             ‘If his father’s name was found in the archives at Sepphoris, no further inquiry was made.’ 

Evidently this vital history of Israel and material for its future was not in the city center where pagan riots could burn them. It was on a defendable hill as the NT describes for Nazareth. 

Israel a society ruled by pedigree.

It is no coincidence that the first words of the New Testament are a genealogical listing of Jesus Christ's family back to Abraham. In the Hebrew Scriptures the last book is that of Chronicles, which lists the genealogies of kings and priests.

Proof of genealogical pedigree was essential in all levels of Israelite society. Israel was probably the strictest and most prominent genealogically-centered society on earth. 

It was impossible to enter the Temple without proof of descent – legitimate descent reinforced at least by 2 or 3 honest witnesses– from one of the twelve tribes. 

Priestly pedigree had even stricter rules. They had to marry virgins from a tribe of Israel. Israelites were allowed to marry virgins of converted gentiles.

Thus protecting the identity of an authentic descendant of David from Herod required subtlety and ruse. Hence the term 'Nazarene' was used. It meant the Messiah who fulfilled the Tanakh prophetic promises from Genesis to Chronicles. 

But it was camouflage for Romans and Herodians. To foreigners and gentiles it meant a man from a small town near the Rome-loyal city of Sepphoris. That is evident in the varieties of describing a man from Nazareth. How did these Nazarene variations arise and by whom?

There are variations of the term of Nazarene: nazooraios or nazarinos. The town of Nazareth itself is spelt in several ways, ending with -a, -ath, -eth or -et. These may be due to local use or in the case of non-believers like the servant girl who accused Peter as understanding it to refer to a geographical location of a suburb of the Galilean capital Sepphoris.  ‘His speech betrays him.

For the faithful Hebrew-speakers the name Nazareth could mean the city of Genealogies or Branches. The Hebrew word 'Netzer' means branch or off-shoot or descendant. 

Jesus the Nazarene means Jesus of the Branch of David. It encompasses the main prophecies of the whole Bible. 

Centuries of Regicide

The term ‘Nazarene’ derives from Netzer, an off-shoot or branch, someone who was a legitimate Davidic descendant or part of this Davidic group. That is Hebrew. Few gentiles knew Hebrew and even less had access to the records. 

In Herod’s time anyone saying ‘I can prove I am a Son of David’ outside the Temple (where gentiles were not allowed) would be killed by Herod’s men. Nazarene or ‘Branchist’ implied a Davidic descent without being overt. 

The Helenistic Syrians under the Seleucids did their level best to eradicate the Davidic line. The Maccabees or Hasmoneans liberated the land from this pagan oppression. But they did not want a Davidic king to replace their military power based on their high priests. Instead they claimed to be 'ethnarchs' or rulers of the people. And then they succumbed to self-pride and made themselves kings. 

The Hasmoneans were not able to resist the intrusion of Roman power. But in the Roman civil wars they allied themselves to Julius Caesar and won recognition 'for ever' as rulers of Israel. They had no interest in seeing a Davidic king. Then Rome decided to make Herod king of Judea. The high priest was demoted to be a Quisling of Roman power. Herod was ruthless in wiping out any opposition.

Herod the Great Despot

In all these centuries of the post-exile world up till Joseph, father of Jesus, the identity and even the existence of the Davidic line was obscured to the point of its assumed non-existence. The rigidly enforced Herodian/ Roman ‘registration’ of the Bethlehem property forced Joseph to courageously step forward and reveal his royal lineage. He had been able previously to distract attention because he also held priestly (Levitical) lineage.

There was one place on earth were Herod's men could not enter. That was the Temple.

The danger without

Jesus would be killed, if, outside the Temple, he openly proclaimed that he was the Son of David. But the death sentence would also apply to those who Herod thought would support this assertion. Outside the Temple the people took their life in their hands to call Jesus, Son of David. That would be deadly for Jesus and anyone who was seen concurring with the title. He told people bluntly not to say this title.

Desperate people sometimes make desperate moves. 

In Matt 9:27 two blind men cried out: Son of David, have mercy on us! 

He asked them whether they believed he could heal them and did so. Then he charged them: 'See that no man know it.' v30. It was dangerous for the newly sighted men and anyone who agreed with them. Later other blind people used the same psychological technique to be cured because they knew he could heal them, Matt 20:30. In Mk 10:47, Bartimeus, after regaining his sight, stuck with him as the safest place. In Luke 18:39 the crowds rebuked the blind man, for crying out, Son of David, -- before he was healed. 

After the Resurrection

After the Resurrection, it was different. It was witnessed and affirmed officially by Romans.  

In the 60s, decades after the Resurrection, believers were all normally referred to as Nazarenes. Paul was called a Nazarene in Acts 24:5. It was proof of Christ's future active kingship of the planet. 

He wrote: 

Jesus Christ (=Jesus the anointed king) came from the seed of David according to the flesh.’ Rom 1:1-3. 

When, in John 1:46-9, Nathanael acclaims ‘Jesus the son of Joseph who is from Nazareth’ to be ‘Son of God and king of Israel’ it was completely verified in the most authentic genealogical archives of Israel and unchallengeable.

The early ekklesia was Nazarene, not Christian

Paul was not a Christian. He was a Nazarene. 

Once Jesus had proved his Messiahship, by the resurrection and the Romans acknowledged it, it was more easy to overtly identify as Nazarene followers, like Paul and the early ekklesia.  

The Hebrew term, Nazarene, was the normal name for Christ’s followers. 

Around the time of Caligula in 41 CE, when he was trying to destroy all Judaism, the term ‘Christian’ was first invented. It was used as an insult by gentile Greeks of Antioch, Acts 11:26. This belittles the prophetic resonance of Nazarene, the legitimate Davidic King, destined to rule the world, to a mere leader of a movement. The significance of holy oil and anointing was lost on pagans. ‘Christian’ became the official term for the imperial Roman syncretic religion. 

The faithful Nazarenes were excluded and persecuted.

Further Proof that Nazarene meant Davidic genealogy 

The Messiah fulfilled genealogical prophecies. He was to be the Son of David, however unlikely that appeared to be in the early first century. There was no movement called the Davidics. The three main groups, according to Josephus were the Sadducees, Pharisees and Essenes. The NT speaks a lot about the first two groups and condemns many of their practices. It does not condemn any practice of the Essenes. Why? It does not even mention them by name! That too was a camouflage name.

The other deadly exposure of linguistic Davidism was also relieved after the resurrection. Those who supported Davidic legitimacy and purity across all Israel were known as Essenes or more correctly Esseans. Josephus uses both terms. 

Essene comes from the Latin usage. Where does the term Essean come from? It relates to Yesse or Jesse, the father of David. As late as the 400s CE Epiphanius, the bishop of Constantia of the imperial church, a converted Jew who knew Hebrew, wrote a list of the origin and beliefs of early Christian groups. He wanted them eliminated.

On the Nazarenes he said: 

‘These people did not give themselves the name of Christ or Jesus’ own name, but that of Nazoreans. They also came to be called ‘Jesseans’ for a short while, before the disciples began to be called Christians at Antioch. But they were called Jesseans because of Jesse, I suppose, since David was descended from Jesse…’ Panarion 2.29.

This shows that 'Nazarene' relates directly to the genealogical prophecies of the whole Bible. The parallel name of Esseans is also of genealogical origin. Both have significance for the prophecies of the Messiah made over the many centuries of Israel’s history. 

The real meaning of Nazarene is a topic of no trivial importance but a major one in the history of the world. It uncovers the prophetic nature of the coming of God's Messiah or Christ. It also describes those, like Paul before Agrippa, who were convinced by Christ to follow him, even to death. 
It encapsulates the truth of God Christ revealed by his resurrection to Jew and Gentile, the entire world.