Wednesday, April 13, 2022

What makes Luke's Gospel unique? Caligula and the authenticated Temple archives!

Luke's Gospel is a record addressed to the High Priest in Jerusalem. It can be shown that it was the time when Gaius Caligula was the emperor. He wanted to destroy all Jews and followers of Christ. 

The book was designed to provide undeniable facts to a political and religious leader of the Jews. The high priest was a pawn of Rome, chosen by Rome to act in Rome's interests to control the Jews. Luke's book, however, provided fact after fact, known to all Jews and believers, that showed why Rome's policy was dead wrong. Furthermore, it showed why the high priest in this case should be acting against the well-known misdeeds of his priestly father and brother, also recorded in the gospels.  

The book is addressed to “Most Excellent Theophilus” chapter 1:3. He was the ethnarch (Roman designated high priest and native ruler). He  ruled as high priest from 37 to 41 CE. He is mentioned in Josephus as the son of Annas of the NT.

This title (kratiste) shows the book was written in this period of intense persecution. The evangelisation of the world had started with force. Areas like Britain outside the empire became a safe haven. 

Emperor Tiberius had recognized that Christ must be a god as he had reports and dispatches showing that the Resurrection had taken place. The Senate objected to this divine status. They said that in Roman law the Senate alone had the legal right to define who was a god. So Tiberius forbade anyone to persecute believers while he lived.

Caligula, the would-be 'god'

Then Caligula had Tiberius killed in 37 CE and became Emperor Gaius. Caligula saw the danger to the whole infrastructure of Rome. It was based on paganism. Paganism was based on the whim of men in the Senate. Its fall was inevitable. It was only a question of time, not logic. 

Romans were confronted with genuine miracles and a genuine resurrection from the dead, followed by many others, Matt 27:52.

And the tombs were opened and many bodies of the saints who had fallen asleep arose, and came out of their graves after his resurrection and went into the holy city, and appeared to many.  

Caligula's single-mindedness to act is described as madness. Flavius Josephus, a eye witness of events, says the emperor had a madness of hubris, an overpowering insolent pride, Antiquities 19,1. Its malevolent power 'extended through all the earth and sea.' It 'filled the empire with more evil than history has ever known.

Among all the earth, Caligula said, 'the Jews and their institutions are my worst enemies.' Leg, 256. Why?

Philo, the Jew of Alexandria, says Caligula was 'beside himself with vanity, not only saying but thinking he was god. He then found among the Greeks or the outside world no people fitted better than the Alexandrians to confirm this unmeasured passion craving for what was beyond mankind's nature.' (Leg 162.) 

What motivated such extremism? Why did the Alexandrian Greeks act so enthusiastically? The core of this madness was a desire for absolute autocracy. That reflected his ancestor, dictator Julius Caesar. 

Caligula wanted to set himself up as the indisputable political and religious head of the entire empire. He drank precious pearls dissolved in his drinks; he ate golden bread and golden meat. He had sex with everyone from the prostitute Pyrallis to almost every woman of rank in Rome. They were all his sex slaves. He had homosexual relations with many men. He had incest with his sisters. (Suetonius: Gaius 36.)

Note: his contemporaries considered he increasingly developed his character of inordinate pride, hubris. It was applauded by some groups and nations. It was not seen as a clinical or medical conditions as recently some writers diagnose centuries after the event to explain it away: glandular disorder, hyperthyroidism, interictal temporal lobe epilepsy, encephalitis, schizoid illness etc.

What was his motivation for all this?

Despot or Absolute Sovereign?

Caligula's dilemma may be summed up in one Greek word. That word is Despotes. It means Absolute Sovereign. It is used of a head of a household which had slaves. The slaves' lives and treatment including torture and death were totally in his hands. Roman law gave a master of slaves absolute control as objects and possessions.

The term was not used between freemen. The officers of Caesar might be addressed as lord, kurios in Greek, but not despotes. That term was reserved to the Caesar Gaius, the only one in this period. Why only one? Because the word despotes was usually confined to the supreme god of the universe, the Creator of all.

To call someone despotes implied that all other creatures were his slaves, obedient subjects, bought and owned by him. 

Augustus then Tiberius simply called themselves first citizen, princeps. They said they were chief priest of religion (Pontifex Maximus) or recalled they had been consul, the chief magistrate. That was not enough for Caligula. He insisted he be referred to as despotes, Absolute Master, by Romans, his officers and even his friends, like king Herod Agrippa.

Jews avoided the term despotes whenever they could. That would be confounding the power and dignity of Almighty God with a pagan.

There was one major exception. Jews applied the title despotes to one of their own. Inside the Temple of Jerusalem, the chief priest (not the high priest) was referred to as despotes or oikodespotes (Absolute Sovereign of the House). The Temple was a City-State and the person in control of all its thousands of guards and the high priests was the Chief Priest. He was Teacher of the high priests and Levites. All had to obey him as he spoke the oracles of the living God.

Jesus, the Anointed Chief Priest, was addressed by these titles and he  refers to himself as oikodespotes, Luke 13:25, Matt 10:25, Luke 14:21. Peter and Jude in the NT refer to him as despotes, Absolute Master (2Pet 2:1 and Jude 4). Gentile converts also in Rome referred to Jesus as Despotes (1 Clement 40). In history the larger family of Jesus and his brothers and sisters is referred to as the desposyni, blood relatives of Jesus, the despotes

When a Jew or Nazarene or a gentile convert referred to Jesus, he said despotes. They had been bought back, redeemed from their sins, by the Master. Sinners are bought at a price, 1Cor 6:20, 2Peter 2:1. They considered themselves willingly slaves (doulos) of all that is good. Even James the brother of Christ refers to himself as a slave of Jesus the Anointed, James 1:1.  

But the pagans in Rome and elsewhere, cheek by jowl with Jews and Nazarenes, were forced to call Caligula despotes. The implication was that he ruled by crude muscular power of his will and his depraved sexual whims the entire world, reduced to utter slavery. His sense of power was that of a tyrant, who could disregard all law and abrogated all power and decision-making to himself.    

When Caligula was claiming the title of Despotes, he was confronted with Jews and Gentiles for whom the only person deserving of the title was the resurrected Jesus who redeemed them. Caligula had redeemed basically no one. He had saved no one from sin. He had no future to offer them. He was the creator of no one. 

The confrontation of a divine Sovereign and a man wanting to be the despot on earth led to an inevitable confrontation of authority. Who would win: the emperor with his mighty legions and his brutality or Jesus of Nazareth? 

The crux of it was either servile adherence to brute force or conscientious resolve to adhere to the good and become obedient to the proven God of the Universe. 

Attack on Rome's foundations

Gaius Caligula was clear-sighted about the danger for the Roman constitution. He had his ego-centric, personal solution to prevent Rome's collapse. Absolute divine power. It was his response to a legal and theological threat posed by the resurrected Christ to the continued existence of Roman power. He foresaw its possible fall or even immediate collapse. He acted in the only way he knew.

His childhood and youth of abuse and disdain emboldened him to fear no one in accomplishing his goal of unique power. He wanted everyone to fear and venerate him, even when he put on a show. When he was 7 years, his father, the war hero Germanicus, was poisoned, to remove him from succeeding Tiberius. He learned the lesson: be strong and resolute in desires and selfish conviction. Trust no one. Use every means to control or eliminate enemies.


Caligula, as emperor, collected a chest of so much poison to deal with his senatorial and other enemies, that, when it was later thrown in the sea, a huge quantity of fish was killed (Suetonius, Gaius 49). He denounced the whole Senate as agents of Sejanus, the would-be overthrower of Tiberius. The plot was exposed at the last minute. Caligula was also on his death list. 

He learned introspection. He remained silent when his mother, Agrippina, was exiled, and when his elder brothers disappeared.  Who could he trust but himself? His character was revealed as emperor. He exercised brutality, forcing many of Rome's elites to fight as gladiators, and relishing the bloodshed. He would stop at nothing.  

From whence could he assure his power? What could he do to save his Rome against the rising tide of Jews and non-Jews believing in Christ, a god totally excluded from pagan pantheism? It was undermining the pagan system on which the whole Roman constitutional structure and authority was built. 

The logic was undeniable. Educated people and even common people, as Tertullian later records, began to question and then mock the pagan gods. These Roman 'gods' had to have the approval of the Senate to be 'official'. And then they could be worshipped. It was an ancient legal privilege that could override even an emperor's wish, they told Tiberius, who favored Christ. 

Poor gods! They had to pray to the Senate to get approval! 

The followers of Christ and his resurrection had their own independent proof. The followers were everywhere and where themselves performing miracles of healing and even raising the dead to life. So say the Roman public records and petitions to the later emperors. 

They were unstoppable ... or were they? Caligula spent all his energy to stop them, with his plan. 

Julius Caesar wanted to be emperor-dictator and simultaneously high priest (Pontifex Maximus) of the pagan gods. He fused the two previously separate offices of State. 

Caligula went further; he wanted to be god, not just a priest of god, an absolute theocrat of the world, free of all restraint, custom and law. He set up his own mystery cult of worship, hymns, prayers and subservience. He impersonated the gods. At night it culminated in the veneration and adoration of the emperor-god. His child, he declared, putting her on the lap of the idol Jupiter, was the incarnate offspring of both the god Gaius and the god Jupiter. 

He acted like a god of the legends. He restrained himself from no sexual desire; no act of sadism was beyond his command; all despoiling of wealth, all denigration of rich and helpless, all desecration of the beautiful,  all humiliation of persons provoking jealousy were at the command of his hand.  

The Roman Senate was reluctant to declare him a god with godlike power despite his dramatic impersonations talking as a brother to god-idols in the pagan temples. 

The Senate saw the danger again. Assent would wipe out their power of nominating gods forever, at least while the obviously mortal Gaius lived. As absolute god, only Gaius's voice and actions would matter for all the inhabitants of the world.  The senators would become an absolute irrelevance. What would happen when he died? Would it be possible to regain their authority they had abdicated? How would they ever say again that their assent mattered when it came to defining the gods? Without Senate-defined gods how would the Roman Empire survive?

Global Gamble

How could Caligula become the god of the Empire if the Senate refused to recognize him as such? He first set about bringing the Senate to heel. He humiliated them. He brought them to their lowest political ebb, openly sleeping with their wives and deriding them in public. But still they did not agree to this final step. That would have been an act of suicide.

How could Caligula save the Empire if the Senate did not comply? 

He had to act in two directions: 

  • make everyone accept him as a god and 
  • secondly destroy the Jews and Nazarenes.

He wanted to set up a gigantic statue of himself as Jupiter at first in Rome and then inside the Jerusalem Temple. The latter would have led to a full-scale Jewish revolt. That would be good grounds for the destruction of the population by his legions.

This was a monumental gamble. It would be like setting off a world war as the Jews had allies and lived throughout the Roman Empire, in every town and country. Josephus describes in detail the consternation of the population when this lethal decision was announced. Much of the population felt that they had no real means of defense. Any protest would be met with slaughter. 

The future of pagan Rome seemingly rested on one man who had an impossible puzzle to solve, how to save the foundations of empire. How can Rome stay pagan? How can Rome kill off the anti-pagan opposition?

The Greek Egyptian Slave

We know of one person who had Caligula's ear from morning to night.  That was Helicon, formerly an Egyptian slave, given to Tiberius. 

He became Caligula's chamberlain. These eastern slaves were much treasured in Rome for their corruption, their craftiness, and their knowledge of mysteries and magic arts. Helicon had received a golden education, a skilful use of language and expertise in word play. He knew how to make himself indispensable and welcome. 

He never left his side.

When Caligula awoke, who was there? Helicon.

When he went to the baths, who was there? Helicon.

When he went for  walk, who accompanied him? Helicon.

At the gymnasium, Helicon was his assistant. 

He was always there to amuse, to show off his inventive mind.

In Alexandria of Hellenistic Egypt, Helicon had drunk deeply from the well of anti-semitism. He knew how to revile them, turn their customs to ribaldry, and mock their religious fanaticism. This interaction was also the occasion to flatter Caligula's obsession with his own divinity.

Philo the Jew calls Helicon a scorpion. He was aided in this theocratic flattery by two other Alexandrians of the same ilk.

How would Caligula solve his dilemma of becoming fully a god, if the Senate still refused? 

Helicon had the solution. No people knew more about divinities and deification than the Egyptian priests. They were fully indoctrinated in the process. They held the mysteries.

All that was required was for the emperor to go there to their sacred temples, and the priests would perform the act.

Caligula prepared for his voyage to Alexandria in his fleet. Once fully recognized as divine, he would undertake the journey on to Jerusalem. There he would see his giant likeness in the Temple's Holy of Holies with the words:

To Gaius, the new Jupiter, god manifest (epiphanes).  

The year was 41 CE. The ground for this great sanctification had already been prepared in the years previously. (Philo Leg 250)

Egyptian deaths

Egypt had a large colony of Jews. It was also one of the first areas that had a large group of believers in Christ in the early years after the Resurrection. 

In 38 CE, Flaccus, Rome's prefect in Egypt, ordered that Jews make statues of Gaius to be set up in all synagogues, Antiq 18.8.1 (258). That caused a riot. The extensive Jewish and Nazarene population of Alexandria were deprived of their citizenship that they held since Alexander the Great. They became Untermensch. Property was pillaged and ransacked. Men were slaughtered in the streets, some torn limb from limb, some burned. A famine was induced so that their Jewish families perished. 

Flaccus, whom Caligula disliked, had been appointed under Tiberius, five years earlier, possibly under the influence of Sejanus an arch-antisemite. Tiberius being dead, Flaccus used oily flattery and acts he thought would anticipate Caligula's own plans. He may have thought this attack on Jews, who he knew to be opponents of Caligula's theocratic ambitions, would curry him favor. 

Flaccus turned out to be one of the greatest persecutors of the Jews including the believers in Christ. Mark is considered the evangelist to the Alexandrian Jews. Philo also writes about the Jewish Therapeutae, those who could heal, much like the early believers' miracles elsewhere. Philo does not call them 'Christians' for the simple reason that this term had not yet been invented. 

It would not take Flaccus much reflection to realise such people were enemies of Caesar Gaius.

Flaccus Avillius succeeded Sejanus in his hatred of and hostile designs against the Jewish nation. Philo: Flaccus 1.

It was eventually more than persecution.

He had determined to destroy {the Jews} utterly in his desire for glory. Flaccus 116.

But  Emperor Caligula liked neither the worshippers of the true God, nor Flaccus. He was removed and died in disgrace.

As for the idolatry, Caligula ordered his statue and image to fill every synagogue, everywhere in the Empire. It was intolerable to Jews to have an idol there in their own sacred buildings where idolatry was utterly forbidden. This decree was enforced with deadly strength. Jews everywhere were humiliated and scorned. It was that or death.

A delegation of Alexandrian Jews led by Philo went to Rome. They soon realized that nothing would stop Caligula. He mocked them about not eating pork. They saw he was determined to destroy all Judaism and Christianity. Caligula asked Philo and his delegation:

Are you the god-haters who do not believe me to be a god, a god acknowledged among all other nations but not to named by you? Leg 353. 

I have got the nature of a god. Leg 367. 

Philo concluded: 'He has set himself against God.' 

He challenged the very existence and right for any trace of the Creator God to remain in his all-pagan world.

Caligula ordered that the huge, 40 foot (12 meter) statue of Zeus, the father of the gods, built by Phidas around 400 BCE at Olympia in Greece, be moved to Rome.  Caligula's face would be substituted so all could see him as the god of gods. 

That extraordinary action would involve opposition from worshippers of Zeus/ Jupiter around Greece and the empire. Many called the awe-inspiring idol 'god' and worshipped it. They stood in fear of their god of gods, Zeus, their god of lightning bolts. It inspired them to war and valor. 

When Caesar's workmen came, some said the god laughed. Some warned that it prophesied the deadly fate of anyone who tried to move it. Then Caligula's ship to bring the idol to Rome was destroyed by thunderbolts.  Meanwhile Caligula looted all Greece of its rich and ancient treasures saying they belonged with him as a god. (Dio LIX, 28.)

He was told this giant idol could not be moved without destroying it. 

Violating the Sanctuary
As for Israel, he then ordered Petronius, his Viceroy and powerful commander in the provinces of the East to build a similar statue of himself. With massive military force, and an exterminatory war against Jews if necessary, he must set up this image of Caligula as god in the Temple in Jerusalem.

This was an extraordinary act of desperation and Roman anarchy. 

The Temple in Jerusalem was not under Roman law. It was an autonomous City-State. It had thousands of its own armed guards. Its legal status was so defined by Julius Caesar himself when he made a treaty with the Maccabees. They had saved him from defeat in the civil war against Pompey and Crassus, both profaners of the Temple. It was perhaps the only morsel of territory, and only some 200 meters square, within the confines of the Roman Empire where Roman law and military might did not apply.

The Temple complex was built like a four-square fortress rising steeply from the Kidron valley ravine. No gentile was ever allowed to enter into its walls. The holy House had further multiple layers of protection. Those who could prove by genealogy that they were Israelites and had purified themselves ritually were allowed inside the outer Court of Israel. No one else, whatever their status. Priests who could prove that their ancestors held hereditary rights to perform specific Temple duties were allowed into the Court of Priests. Any Israelite who was not a priest who ventured there was liable to be put to death. 

At the center of the Court of Priests lay the Holy Temple itself. This was a long room divided into two sections. The first was called the Holy Place. Only specially chosen priests were allowed in there for the rituals. Further inside, another room was separated off by a thick curtain. This was the Holy of Holies. Only the High priest was allowed to enter and then only on one day of the year: the Day of Atonement.  

All around these courts, affixed every few meters to the chest-high barriers, were multilingual warning notices, 90 by 60 cm. In red letters they alerted any unauthorized person who dared entered into a court where he was not permitted that he would be responsible for his own death. 

Because of this holiness, the Temple was cherished and protected by the huge Jewish and Israelite Diaspora as well as all the inhabitants of the Land. The Maccabees had fought many bloody battles to free it from gentiles like the Syrian dictator, Antiochus Epiphanes. They purified it, rebuilt and rededicated it. The Israelites intended to keep it holy.

King Herod himself was not allowed to enter the Temple, even the outer court. He was not Jewish. When Roman legions were stationed at their Fort Antonia just a few hundred meters away, they were never allowed into the Temple. In 70 CE, when Roman legions under Titus surrounded the Temple, Titus called upon the besieged Jews to surrender. He said that in all the years of Roman control, Romans had never violated the Decree of Caesar and the laws of Rome. They had always allowed the high priests to govern. They had authority to forbid by force strangers and foreigners from entering. Even Roman citizens would be killed for violation of the rule. Wars 6.2.4 (124).

But Caligula some three decades earlier, in his desperate attempt to assert his planetary godhead, was determined to abolish this Roman law. He made himself  out to be greater than Julius Caesar. Caligula was prepared to break all Roman laws and customs when he insisted that an idol of himself as Jupiter be displayed inside the Temple. 

For the Jews from the time of the restitution of the Temple to its destruction in 70CE, the sanctity of the House was something to be be defended with the very life and breath of the nation. 

The sole Roman emperor who ruthlessly planned and attempted to violate it was Caligula. He must have concluded that the action was essential to his own existence and that of the Empire.

He wished to turn the Temple of God to his own temple as god. It would conform as all the synagogues in the empire and display his image. He would rule the world from Jerusalem. The richest building in the world would would be his own capital. There was no construction in Rome or the empire that was comparable with it. Titus was later to confess:

This holy building is the most beautiful structure ever built by the hand of man.  
                                                                                (Jesus, James, Joseph, p viii.)

Caligula's motive was not one of mere avarice. His long-term strategy was to defile it, and its God, who opposed the gods of the pantheon. The Jerusalem God and his castle, a furlong square, threatened the destruction of his plan for worldwide divine domination. Thus a square section of land, 185 meters by 185meters, perched above a perilous ravine was the focus of attention of the Emperor who saw it as the sole threat to his theocratic mastery. 

Philo of Alexandria, who around 39 CE led the Jewish delegation of Alexandria to speak to Caligula in Rome, was aghast that, after defiling all synagogues, only one building was left.
The Temple in the Holy City, which alone was left untouched being judged to have rights of sanctuary, he was proceeding to convert and transmogrify into a temple of his own to bear the name of Gaius, the new Zeus. 

Lack of law was leading the world into dark evil.
Do you deem God worthy of nothing in our world here below, no country, no city, but even this tiny area hallowed for Him and sanctified by oracles an divine messages you propose to take away, so that in the circumference of the great earth no trace or reminder should be left of the reverence and honour due to the truly existing veritable God? ... Don't you know that you are opening the springs of a flood of evil, in these strange and monstrous actions which it is unlawful either to do or conceive? (Philo, Leg 347.) 
Another witness, Flavius Josephus says Caligula's eventual death saved his country and nation from extermination and genocide:
...our own nation was brought to the very verge of ruin, and would have been destroyed but for his sudden death. .. the story provides good evidence of God's power. Antiq 19,1, 1, (16).

The logical conclusion is that Caligula could have ruled his empire by terror, bloodshed and with extreme brutality. That rule by fear had succeeded in his early years. That terror did not involve defiling the Temple. But it is obvious that far more than rule by terror motivated Caligula. He did not want just power, utter obedience and mindless subservience. 

He was on a mission: to destroy Christianity and Judaism. Proof? There was no reason to insist on the desecration of the Temple if all that Caligula wanted was to be an emperor who was feared and obeyed. God was his target.

His plan to desecrate the Temple with the Abomination of Jupiter was to assert his divinity. He had to prove that he was greater than Christ and specifically the prophecy of Christ. In fact he wanted to prove he was greater than God Almighty. He was more than a ruler. He was an ideologue with the aim of destroying the God of the Bible and facts about Christ.

He failed.

What he actually proved was that God Almighty of the Bible rules the universe and this planet Earth. 

The Abomination

In the century after Caligula, the writer Pausanias described the great idol of Zeus at Olympia at Elis.

The god sits on a throne, and he is made of gold and ivory. On his head lies a garland which is a copy of olive shoots. In his right hand he carries a Victory, which, like the statue, is of ivory and gold; she wears a ribbon and—on her head—a garland. In the left hand of the god is a scepter, ornamented with every kind of metal, and the bird sitting on the scepter is the eagle. The sandals also of the god are of gold, as is likewise his robe. On the robe are embroidered figures of animals and the flowers of the lily. 

The position and monstrous-size throne made the idol even more impressive to the pagan worshippers who entered. It included scenes of violence and rape that pagans took as a natural attributes of gods.

The throne is adorned with gold and with jewels, to say nothing of ebony and ivory. Upon it are painted figures and wrought images. There are four Victories, represented as dancing women, one at each foot of the throne, and two others at the base of each foot. On each of the two front feet are set Theban children ravished by sphinxes, while under the sphinxes Apollo and Artemis are shooting down the children of Niobe.

So was this the end of his fanatical venture? Not in the least. Caligula doubled down everywhere, provoking even more violence and raising the stakes to say in effect, 'Accept me as God or accept the destruction of the known world'.

World War

His policy affected not only the Jews in Israel, nor only the millions of Jews scattered throughout the Roman Empire, but much more.  Petronius, Rome's commander in the eastern provinces of Israel and Syria, knew that greater dangers would be ignited. 

Parthia was a huge empire to the east that had defeated Rome and decimated its legions many times previously. Moreover Parthia was favourable to the Jews and the Temple because many Jews and Israelites lived there and had transferred vast amounts of wealth to rebuild the Temple.
Parthian Jews every year dispatched envoys ... conveying to the Temple a great quantity of gold and silver amassed from the first fruits. (Philo Leg 216)

Petronius divided his armies into two sections. One was to deal with the Jews and their expected national revolt. The other half would defend the frontier with Parthia. In Egypt the populous Jewish colony of Alexandria was already defending itself, as best it could, against this rabid antisemitic persecution. 

In the West, Britain was showing its support against the tyrant. In 39 CE Caligula sent his legions there against the Kelts and Germans. His armies massed on the Channel coast. He made a show of preparing an invasion against Britain, a stronghold of early Christianity and resistance to Roman paganism. (Christianity and Celtic Druidism that focused on ultimate truth were the only religions banned in the Roman Empire.) 

The leader of the small tribe of the Canninefates at the mouth of the Rhine derided Caligula's military arrogance at even thinking of invasion. Why was Britain so important to him? He wasn't known as a great, battle-hardened war leader.

Yet now, due to him alone, the civilized world was about to explode into war and violence everywhere. Why? It was all based on Caligula's decision to deify himself and erect statues of himself as almighty god of the world. 

Why would Caligula do this? Why cause world war on all fronts? For what advantage? 

The prophecy of Christ

Caligula wanted to show he was greater than Christ who prophesied in 30 CE that he would destroy an abomination of desolation if it was put in the Temple, Matt 24:15. Caligula wanted to be greater and attempted to prove the prophecy wrong.

When you therefore shall see the abomination of desolation, spoken of by Daniel the prophet, stand in the holy place, ... the let those in Judea flee to the mountains... As the lightning comes out of the east, and shines as far as the west, so shall also the coming of the Son of man be.

Then the legions suddenly left Britain alone. The conquest was off. Why? The public secretly mocked him for this decision to reverse his invasion plans. Did Caligula realise it was more strategic to attack Israel and crush the anti-pagans at their source in Jerusalem? He would need all his troops there rather than set off wars in both east and west. 

He planned to be declared a god in Egypt according to ancient rites. Then he would rule as god of all the world from Jerusalem. There his goal was genocidal to all who would not believe him and deicidal of the Sovereign Authority of the Temple.

But as Philo wrote:

It is easier for God to change into a man than for a man to become God. Leg118.


Caligula made great preparations for this event. He would not take his fleet of ships directly to Egypt. Only the grain cargo ships did that. He would make a procession around the coast of the Mediterranean and be acclaimed in each port and feted as divine. 

For Egypt he had prepared in secret a huge idol of himself as Jupiter. This would be taken with him.

Nothing seemed able to stop his plans. 

But then a dagger did. He was assassinated in 41 just before he could travel there. 

Training a high priest

Some commentators speculate that Theophilus was some unknown Christian convert. Not so. The Bible shows he was high priest and trained by a Temple Teacher to follow the rituals with exactness and purity. Luke does not say anywhere that he was a Christian. But he does say that he had this training.

Luke uses a word that shows Theophilus had priestly training: catechetized, 1:4. 

A high priest had to maintain a difficult balance between the orders of Rome, the instructions of Caligula's friend and deputy King Agrippa, and the survival of the Jewish people. He learned his metier by repetition under a Teacher.

The expert teacher had to be sure he managed the operations in the Temple in a way that conformed to the precise instruction of the Torah and the Hebrew Scriptures. Disobedience to God would endanger the whole people. 

In this fight with a would-be Jupiter, attention to detailed obedience was essential. 

Who was Theophilus?

What happened when Annas and Caiaphas were sacked by the Romans or retired as priests or died? The Romans wanted a high priest who acted as ruler of the people for them who conformed to Roman policy and that included not demolishing the pantheon by confirming the divinity of Christ.

It is not sure that Caiaphas was of real priestly stock. Caiaphas is always mentioned in conjunction with Annas who was the retired high priest. He was very rich and had married the daughter of Annas. In 30 CE he was acting as a substitute for Annas whom Romans had deposed in 15 CE. 

After Annas was sacked in 15 CE, his son, Eleazar, lasted only a year as high priest. The high priesthood was hereditary according to Jewish law, even though Annas might not have been the most legitimate office holder. The Romans wanted someone who was subservient. The next high priest was equally short in office before Caiaphas, known more as businessman than priest, temporarily re-established the Annas family line. His background is obscure but he had good relations with the Romans. Whatever the evidence he tried to deny that Jesus the Christ rose from the dead and was the true priest. What is known is that his father-in-law, Annas, expected him to produce a male child that would become priest by virtue of Annas's bloodline. There is no indication that Caiaphas produced a male child. He was deposed under Tiberius in early 37, around the time Pilate was recalled for trial. Caiaphas's policy of denial failed. 

So what would happen to the high priesthood? The family held on to the various offices of high priests. It would fall back to the other sons of Annas, who seem to have been much younger. They were now adults.

The first son, Jonathan, was nominated high priest. This hothead who tried to deny Christ lasted for only a few weeks in early 37 CE. The outcry of the public was so strong he had to be removed. Theophilus, perhaps ill- prepared for the post but clearly less of an anti-Christian ideologue was put into the office of high priest. 

Thus Luke stresses that Theophilus had to be trained to be acceptable to the public who knew the resurrection was a fact. He had to be sure of the facts of the Messiah, if he were to stand up against Roman propaganda and attack. Who was his teacher? James the brother of Jesus had taken over the post during his work in Galilee. He stayed in the Temple until his death in the 60s. He was of the special lineage of chief priest, a royal line of teachers, stemming from David and his son Nathan. James may have been one of the teachers or Theophilus, who was installed as high priest by Roman power.

Luke reminds Theophilus of the details of the miraculous birth of Jesus to the aged Mariam, a daughter of Aaron, the truest line. He produces the priest-list that shows Jesus taking office 'as he was beginning to be about thirty' -- the official age to become Chief Priest according to Hebrew reckoning. He lists the miracles. He describes the Council of 70 Elders that Jesus set up, Luke 10. And he provides proof of the resurrection according to Hebrew records and detailed Roman legal procedures. He finishes with the witness of believers in the Temple, giving absolute proof of the events.  

Luke writes to Theophilus as if he were a State librarian accepting a valuable artefact. The Temple held the archives of the nation. So at least we know that high priest Theophilus did not refuse to admit authenticated, witnessed records, either during the reign of Gaius Caligula or later when it came to the books of Acts of the Apostles.  Theophilus may therefore have had and retained an office of chief archivist in the Temple both before and after his years as high priest.

The later Theophilus 

Proof that this Theophilus was the high priest is shown when Luke wrote Acts. There Theophilus is not called Most Excellent (kratiste). Why? Because he was no longer high priest in the 60s.

Calling someone by such a title would be considered illegal, even treasonous, to the political leader and high priest in office. He only could carry this honorific title. Paul addresses the Roman governors by this title kratiste in Acts. That shows it was a political form of address of the highest order. The ethnarch of the Jews held such an office but with the Roman conquest was subservient to Rome. But he still retained the political title -- while in office.

Luke's Gospel carried the facts that everyone knew to be true. Truth was victorious. There were many records, many eye-witnesses, as well as Luke himself, who was acquainted with all the facts from the beginning, Luke 1:1-. Their belief and conviction in them was tried in the fire of utmost danger when the whole nation was on the verge of Caligula's genocide.

This word kratiste is living proof that Luke’s Gospel was written as an authentic record, sent to the high priest personally, to be kept in the Temple archives as proof of events. 

As required by Hebrew law, the gospel is authenticated by multiple honest witnesses. It is a record of the history of Israel, validated by Jews, the high priest, imperial Roman authorities and undeniable events of history such as Caligula’s planned extermination of the Jews. It explains the otherwise unexplainable behavior and extremely costly strategy of Caligula. 

Caligula's great gamble would make no sense UNLESS he was scared about losing his throne and empire because of the prophesied Return of Christ, recorded in Matthew, Mark and Luke: to destroy the Abomination of Desolation. Luke wrote to Theophilus the words of Christ:

Settle therefore in your hearts not before what you shall answer: for I will give you a mouth and wisdom, which all your adversaries will not be able to gainsay, nor resist. You shall be betrayed and hated of all men ... but a hair of your head shall not perish. Luke 21:14ff. 

Nazarenes in the Temple

In the first seven years after his father, Annas, who had been a principal agent in having Christ crucified, the priesthood was unable to persecute the Nazarenes. In this period, Tiberius decreed that they should not be killed.

We know from Luke that the disciples were continuously in the Temple.  So under the high priesthood of Theophilus they were not banned. 

They were continually in the Temple, praising God. ch24:53.

Was Theophilus popular with the people of Israel? No. We have good evidence that he did not stand firm with the Nazarenes against the theocratic attack of Gaius. 

But first what happened to Caligula? Did he reach Egypt?

Parthian signals

Gaius was anxious to reach Egypt as soon as possible. This can be seen from the urgency of his orders to Petronius his Commander in Syria to complete the giant idol of himself and erect it in the Temple, regardless of the cost in lives and the danger of war with Parthia and other countries.

Were events in Parthia signalling success or danger? Caligula had benefited from the Parthian Peace process of Tiberius until his death in 37 CE. A mutually beneficial truce had been forged with Artabanus II but then a war over the buffer State of Armenia took place. Decades of dispute followed. 

Artabanus seized the country when Artaxias died, the nominee of Germanicus, Gaius's father. Then Artabanus was forced to concede it as the Roman general Vitellius marched towards the Euphrates. Rome sowed discord and revolt among the cities and tribal adversaries of Artabanus and tried to replace him by a Roman puppet, Tiridates. Artabanus fled to the court of King Izates at Adiabene, who together with his mother Queen Helena had converted to Judaism. Artabanus, however, fought back and regained his throne.

Then in the autumn of 40, events seem to favor Gaius, the Roman 'god'. The Parthian emperor Artabanus was again deposed, this time by the Megistanes, bicameral body of the Assembly and Senate of Magi and Wise Men. Who would rule? Rivalry between his sons presaged a civil war. Seleucia and other cities wanted independence. 

Was this the divine moment to act?

Caligula took major risks to achieve a tight timetable. What was the deadline? Why was he in such a hurry at the start of year 41? Was it to coincide with an Egyptian festival of deification? Was his Temple glorification planned for a Jewish festival like Passover, the time when Jesus died and rose again?

To fit in with a timetable where he would present himself in Jerusalem in the Spring after visiting Egypt would mean setting out from Rome months before. He planned a glorious itinerary where at every step, every port, the crowds and authorities would worship him with pomp.

The Rome-built idol was ready in January. But to travel directly across to Egypt in winter was not only dangerous but foolish. Ships were often lost in storms. So Caligula planned to take his fleet around the coast of the Mediterranean. 

Plans were set to leave on 25 January. Then Caligula was slain by his guards. So ended the life of the would-be God of the World. 

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