Paul and Jesus in Egypt

The Invention of Jesus

It is my contention that the Gospel character named Jesus Christ is a composite of multiple historical figures, known and unknown.

The actual Christ was a (anointing) Spirit in the sky, who existed as the masculine-half of a polarity, as presumed by Elxai and his Ebionite and Nasarene followers.  This, I suppose, is fairly compatible with Richard Carrier’s contention that Jesus was originally an angel.

From my perspective, an economical approach to unwrapping the real Christian history is via the Heresiologists, who describe, in stunning detail, attributes of the earlier versions which were hijacked for a variety of purposes – power grabs, political necessity, bigotry, etc.

Therefore, the Jesus Christ of any given generation was simply the Paraclete; the human representation of a merger between Heaven and Earth; that is to say the man who possessed the Spirit at any given time.  This Spirit presumably evolved to support multiple Paracletes within the same generation.  And according to Paul, the Christ descended onto Cephas, 500 Christians, James, and finally onto Paul himself (1 Corin 15:5-10).  Based on Paul’s focus on his own death, the presumption probably was that once the Christ descended into the Paraclete, that person died and became Jesus Christ (Romans 6:2, Romans 6:8, Romans 7:9) .

The descending spirit, which is activated upon baptism (or some other collection of catalysts), is not only detectable in Mark (Mk 1:10-11) and Matthew (Mthw 3:16), but it is clearly attested to via church fathers who tell us that early Christian groups such as the Ebionites, Cerinthians, and Carpocratians (AH i.26.2), believed this exact thing.  In addition, this notion of a transient Spirit is detectable in later Christian texts, as well.

For instance, Simon Magus, who at times served as the Ebionite doppelganger for Paul, tried to buy this transient Spirit from Peter and John in Acts of the Apostles 8 (one implication is that this is a reworking of the feud between Paul and Peter in Galatians 2:8-11), and paints Paul as a false Spirit encapsulator.  Irenaeus describes an Apostolic succession, which had the Spirit moving from person to person.  Similarly, in the Acts of John (47), a young man comes to John and asks him to raise his friend from the dead.  John gives the young man the magic incantation to recite, and the young man is able to raise his friend by himself (this young man, at least according to my estimation, must have been Polycarp).

It is also my contention that much of the Gospel character Jesus was influenced by legend surrounding Paul.  For example, the (Ebionite!) Pseudo-Clementines have Simon Magus claiming to be born of a virgin in his confrontation with Peter.  Paul, in 1 Corin, claims to specifically to be born from a miscarriage.  But,as I have made the case in earlier posts, Paul was the original Simon, who was presumed by his followers to be the first true Earthling who received the Spirit from Jesus around the time of his death, perhaps several lifetimes and reincarnations earlier.

It is from the same Ebionite source that we get the factoid that Simon Magus was a disciple of John the Baptist, and fought for control of the sect with Dositheus.  Such admissions serves to give us several facets of what the Ebionites believed:

  1. Jesus was a contemporary of Simon Magus
  2. Jesus and Simon Magus were in the same place at the same time with the same people
  3. Simon Magus and Jesus both worked to achieve the same means – to control John the Baptist’s sect after his death

Josephus

The Jewish-Roman historian Josephus makes reference to plenty of historical figures who resemble the Gospel Jesus.  One character who resembles Jesus is the so-called Egyptian, the messianic claimant who took thousands of followers to the Mount of Olives, and claimed he could knock down the temple walls, just like Jesus does in Mark 14:57, Matthew 27:40, and John 2:19.  Such a following in Judea – perhaps over 1% of Judea’s population at the time, would surely have some holdovers and legend surrounding it!

The link between Jesus and Egypt is explicit, as described in Matthew 2:13-23.  However, another curious link to Egypt comes from Celsus, who was quoted by Origen.  In his polemic against Christianity, Celsus writes

“…[Mary] disgracefully gave birth to Jesus, an illegitimate child, who having hired himself out as a servant in Egypt on account of his poverty, and having there acquired some miraculous powers, on which the Egyptians greatly pride themselves, returned to his own country, highly elated on account of them, and by means of these proclaimed himself to be a God.”

Note the parallels Celsus draws between (his understanding of) Christianity at the time and the tradition history remembers.  This is not the only place where Jesus is described as being born illegitimately and in disgrace.  The Toldoth Yeshu also describes that Mary was raped, and Jesus was the byproduct.  The curious detail about Celsus’s account is that Jesus was away from Jerusalem for a number of years, certainly to the point where he would have had the wherewithal to perform labor for money.

In other words, the Celsus version of Jesus might consider himself an Egyptian; surely, this version has plenty of reasons to refer that portion of his biography.  The stunning link here comes from Acts of the Apostles 21:37-39, where Paul speaks to a Roman commander:

 As the soldiers were about to take Paul into the barracks, he asked the commander, “May I say something to you?”

“Do you speak Greek?” he replied. “Aren’t you the Egyptian who started a revolt and led four thousand terrorists out into the wilderness some time ago?”

320px-Acts_of_the_Apostles_Chapter_21-16_(Bible_Illustrations_by_Sweet_Media)

One wonders what the Acts author was attempting here.  Was this a polemic? A slight against an early Christian member whom the author was begrudgingly forced to admit into the Orthodoxy?  Or are we getting insight into a partial truth of Christian history?

We must also allow for the assumption that the Acts author was familiar with Josephus, and was slyly integrating Christian history into what was left of secular history.  But as far as smoking guns go, this seems like one.

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Author: Tim...Stepping Out

Tim Stepping Out

20 thoughts on “Paul and Jesus in Egypt”

  1. Any idea when you will be getting your book out? (I can’t wait.)

    On Fri, Nov 17, 2017 at 12:07 PM, Tim Stepping Out wrote:

    > Tim…Stepping Out posted: “The Invention of Jesus It is my contention > that the Gospel character named Jesus Christ is a composite of multiple > historical figures, known and unknown. The actual Christ was a (anointing) > Spirit in the sky, who existed as the masculine-half of a polar” >

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    1. I had stepped away from that a few months ago, because my assumptions were so fluid, at the time, and I wanted to wait until I had a broader, overarching theory that could better-stand-up to new data I was encountering…particularly, I needed to integrate the Queen of Heaven into my theory. I’m probably to the point where I’m ready to start again, so I will soon! Thanks for the reminder!

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  2. I’d never heard of the Paraclete before. The plot thickens.

    I’m looking forward to your book, too, but can I make a suggestion; pen a paper first and submit it to U Chicargo Journal of Religion. At worst, it’ll help streamline your thoughts. At best, it could act like a Higgs field.

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  3. Certainly I have considered the Egyptian to be referring to a figure identified as either Jesus or Paul. I have also postulated that this figure was also the Talmudic Yeshu ben Stada. The problem here is that ben Stada was an early second century figure.

    The convergence here is, I believe, with Lukuas-Andreas. This brings together the Simon of Cyrene figure as adorning the cross; Simon the Zealot who was crucified around the time of the Kitos revolt; and Simon Magus, who boasted the title of Stadios, an allusion to the cross/stauros in metaphourical terms. Yeshu ben Stada is not described as a zealot, but only as a magician who taught blasphemy. Even so, much of the Talmud is written in segmentic chunks, so who knows what else he did? (No figure matching Lucas is even hinted at in the Talmud).

    There’s a lot of threads going into Christianity that it’s hard to tell where one ends and another begins.

    I maybe completely mistaken, because I still view the Jamesian layer–that James was the Risen Lord in that he took over his twin brother’s role of community leader–to be the earliest (about 90 ad), with the Pauline, Cerinthian, and Johannine layers to be post Kitos. With them Lucas may indeed have had some significance; but not with the Jamesians. Basilides… I haven’t a clue… I had believed him to be the priest alluded to in Gospel of the Hebrews; but the information about him is so bonkers that I’ve about given up on this, because of him!

    But anyway, another great post Tim. That book should be excellent.

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    1. Thanks Daniel. The position you hold, that James was the earliest, is certainly reasonable. It is interesting though that in 1 Corin 15, Paul puts Cephas’ reception of the Christ spirit earlier than James. But then, of course, perhaps we have with the Naassenes – that Gnostic group that revered James and Mary – a derivative or renaming of the Nasaraenes…an idea that is increasingly plausible in my mind. If that is the case, then perhaps what we have with the Naassenes/Ebionites/James-centrics is where specific details of the virgin birth came from…

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    1. Certainly the Yeshu ben Pantera lead should never be ignored. Another good point that I had forgotten about – Onias, is a very good candidate for the Essene Teacher of Righteousness, but does seem to be a different tradition to Egyptian sorcerers.

      Made me realise something quite depressing. Trying to find proto-jesus characters in Josephus, which is where most mythicists look, we must consider the possibility that if 3rd and 4th century orthodox Christians were prepared to add text to Josephus, they were also just as likely to remove passages or move them according to their preferred time line.

      If there truly was a 1st century BC Yeshu Ben Pantera, then would Josephus’s writings about this character have survived? The Egyptian is no doubt related to Yeshu, but how? Is the Egyptian a 1st Century character who claims the paraclete of the original Yeshu? or was this passage moved from its original context, and other passages about this Egyptian, and his fate been removed completely.
      The Jesus that comes in Paul’s writing is whitewashed from all intrigue, even losing his magical powers!

      If we consider then that Josephus did actually write about Yeshu, we have an explanation of why the John the Baptist Passage is added before any Jesus passage interpolations – there was no need! as Yeshu was already there. Celsus refers to this character, and we know from Origen’s response it was written – written in Antiquities?
      According to Mandeaen gospel, Jesus and John are contemporaries, and Jesus is the deceiver, who looks a lot like the Essene wicked priest.
      The earlier Christian sects are not too troubled by Jesus’ maverick reputation, and while the Mandeaen gospel writes about Jesus as a troublesome figure, I get the idea that their philosophy is not black and white on who is good and who is bad. Jesus makes a defense of his association with sinners and John is instructed to baptise the deceiver and not to worry.
      I think I like this controversial Jesus, who not only challenges the religious order, but is not afraid to take on the gods. Perhaps he is also the Monkey spirit from Buddhism a bit also?

      The Essene wicked priest came to be elevated above the righteous priest and started to take on qualities from other god-men outside Judaism who challenged the pride of Heaven. What a great religion for a people tired of tyranny of the traditional powers, but alas it had to be tamed!

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      1. Yeshu ben Pantira/Stada is a late first, early second century figure. It’s difficult to establish a tie between the Teacher of Righteousness and ben Stada. Of course one may exist, mind, but right now I can’t figure out how.

        It could be that Yeshu was not strictly a name, but a title, linking one with the Angel of the Lord, Ishu.

        There are of course several figures that appear in Josephus that may have hold some inspiration for the Gospel character of Jesus. Theudas, The Egyptian, the Samaritan, and Jonathan the Weaver… But like you, I too am suspicious of Josephus.

        One conclusion I’ve reached is that most of these figures are allegories of the same man; that our Josephus is entirely fraudulent and written in the second century.

        Another is that the rebel leader, Lukuas-Andreas, was this figure. Indeed, Lukuas may be a corruption for Lucius, while Dio Cassius identifies him as Andrew, a possible diminutive interpretation of Ishu. When taken together, reveals him as the Man of Light. (Lucius is light, Andrew is man, and Ishu is His Man).

        In fact, Lukuas may have been the inspiration for the Simon of Cyrene and Simon of Jerusalem traditions. It’s not known what became of Lukuas, but Ibn al-Nadim has him as fleeing to Palestine after he failed to take Alexandria, and may have been among those executed in Lydda.

        And where was ben Stada said to have been stoned and hung? Lydda.

        It’s pure speculation, but I believe that after Lukuas fled and came to Palestine he met the brothers Julian and Pappus, who were also causing riots in the Palestine-Syria region, and granted Julian (who was also called Simon) his “power” (essentially, his spirit, or even the mystical name of God) before being executed. The brothers continued to lead riots against Rome and supported bar Kochba, before being killed themselves.

        Now, there is conflicting traditions in the Talmud that have the brothers in 117 ad. The Genesis Rabbah Midrash has them surviving Kitos, petitioning to rebuild the Temple, and dying during bar Kochba. So this can be a fork in the road of possibilities.

        One thing that I am becoming convinced of, however…

        … Matthew’s Jesus is Simon bar Kochba.

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    2. Hmm… Christ the Magician could either be some other Christs that has nothing to do with Christianity as Christ is not a name but an epithet meaning “the anointed”. Also, the artifact in the URL you’ve shared is not the orthodoxy’s “χριστος” but rather the word “χρηςτου” meaning “the good”. Remember in Suetonius’s Life of Claudius he referred to “Chrestus” or “Chresto” in some translations meaning good and not “Christus”. While pronunciation wise, they may sound the same but they’re two different words. However as to not dismiss the potential link between Alexandria and Christianity, some Christian Gnostic sects are known to be followers of a man named “Chrestus” as some archaeological remnants of Marcionite synagogues (I forgot where I read it) has inscriptions that say “Isu Chresto” or “Jesus the Good”. I still maintain that there is a very high chance that the gospels are dated much later than we thought (middle to late 2nd century CE/AD), there is a chance that this artifact came not from the early Catholic Church but rather from Gnostics in the 1st century.

      But once you go explore when did Gnosticism ever occurred, a whole new can of worms are opened as earliest extant research suggests that Gnosticism has appeared even before the common era. Many of these Gnostics are docetic meaning they don’t believe in the physical manifestation of Jesus but rather more of a divine, heavenly phantom in the sky (pleroma) battling the evil archons. This is why the the gospel of John especially its prologue is quite an explicit docetic text.

      Instead of crucifixion in Golgotha, these docetists believe that Jesus was crucified in the heavens with his arms outstretched. The term “crucify” doesn’t necessarily mean a person nailed on a wooden cross but rather anything or anyone affixed in a cross form. In fact, many pre-Christian gods appear crucified as in a cross form but not necessarily crucified like Jesus. But, there are pagan gods that share the same Gnostic themes of heavenly crucifixion.

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  4. I have been thinking a fair bit about the Egyptian and and John the Baptist recently, as they seem to be good starting points.
    The problem that I see is that according to Josephus, the Egyptian was not crucified but escaped. Paul is quite clear that he worships a Christ who was crucified. Interestingly one who did not perform miracles. So Paul’s ‘jesus’ I suppose would not be based on the Egyptian. I would suspect that Paul’s psuedo-historical ‘jesus’ must have been earlier or more myth based and seen in visions. Could it be that Paul is not a fan of the new ‘gospels’ that promote the Egyptian as ‘Jesus’? these gospels did not seem to ‘portray Christ as crucified’.
    The Egyptian claims to be able to bring down the Walls of Jerusalem – which makes him the return of ‘Joshua’ – which means he was ‘Jesus’! The Epistle of Barnabus mentions Jesus and Joshua interchangeably.

    I think we have missed something important about John the Baptist, and that is that he may have been real, or at the least invented long before ‘Jesus’. This is apparent from the Josephus entry about him. There is the possibility that this was an interpolation, but unlike the ‘Testimonium Flavianum’ which is missing from Origen’s ‘Contra Celsus’, this entry was quoted! This means that if it is a interpolation, it was a very early one, and and made by someone who thought Josephus’s work was missing ‘John the Baptist’, but was obviously not so concerned about missing ‘Jesus’!
    If this was an interpolation, then it was done within 150 years of the original Jospehus, and did successfully fool Origen. If this is was an interpolation, then it was done by a group who believed that John the Baptist was a real historical figure, and may or may not have had a notion of a non-historical ‘Jesus’. So when did Christianity and Mandeaism part ways? Could the Mandeaist Gospel provide us with a the earliest concept of ‘Jesus’?

    Then consider the possibility that the entry was the original work by Jospehus – then that would mean Theudas was probably not ‘John the Baptist’ unless Josephus has got two different sources about the same person and not realised they were the same. The Josephus passage about ‘John the Baptist’ is also highly honoring about him, which would suggest Josephus is influenced if not a member of the early Mandeaists? Josephus is not so kind with his description of the Egyptian – which possibly aligns him with Paul’s religion?
    Paul and Josephus – I would not be the first to postulate they were the same person – but I have not yet convinced myself!

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    1. John the Baptist is certainly a complicated fellow. My own speculation is that the JTB passage in Josephus is interpolated, but like you, I agree that the case for interpolation is not nearly as strong as with the TF.

      My own view of JTB is that he was a stand-in, or perhaps emerging from the same community as Theudas; perhaps the Sadduccees would have hated both of them. The striking support, at least in my mind, and aside from similarities in geography and behavior, is that Clement of Alexandria drew a link that connected the Apostle Paul to the Valentinians, and the connecting piece was Theudas(!). In this context, I do not need JTB to be an invention, or even a different name for Theudas – they could have both emerged from similar religious and political perspectives…perhaps attributes from them were later merged by Christian authors. The fact that both the Mandaeans and Christians were referred to as Nasoreans/Nazarenes is not inconsequential, I don’t think, considering the similar roots. It’s also not unexpected that John, in Mandaean traditions, has a negative attitude towards Jesus (in the Mandaean Book of John, I think…).

      Another interesting link between the Egyptian and Christian writings is with the “naked fugitive” in Mark 14:51-52. Like the fugitive, the Egyptian escaped, leaving only the linen cloth. It is interesting a later evolution in Christianity was Docetism, which seems metaphorically analogous – at least IMHO. I made the case in “Marcion Revisited” a couple weeks ago that I think it’s more appropriate to link Marcion (a presumed Docetic!) to the Gospel of Mark, rather than Luke…

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    2. One other point I’d like to raise is that, according to the Ebionites in the pseudo-Clementines, it was SImon Magus who contended for supremacy in John the Baptist’s sect after he died – he battled with Dositheus. Could Dositheus be an inversion of Theudas? I believe Eisenman has written fairly extensively on this topic (although I think he draws different conclusions than I do). But if you presume that the Ebionite characterization for Simon Magus was essentially a doppelganger of the Apostle Paul, it certainly adds an extra layer of complexity…

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    3. I had a quick peruse of the Jospehus writings about Saulus, and there does not seem to be much to go on here. He seems to be a nasty henchman for Agrippa. However, he is a contemporary of the history that the gospels have been placed into (albeit with the time-shift noted by L. Einhorn), so I suppose that supports the mythicism of Paul, and I now am grudgingly accepting that the ‘authentic’ Pauline letters are probably more a fictional work than true letters to churches. The idea that a whole heap of dispersed churches had kept these letters and they were all somehow collected from these places and canonised does raise questions, but I think this answers that problem.

      I suppose Paul was literally all things to all people, he is “Simon Magus”, “Apollonius”, “Saulus”, “Josephus”, “Paul from Acts” and the writer of the ‘authentic’ epistles.

      I am also now inclined to believe Jesus son of Gamaliel could be the ‘crucified’ Jesus that the Pauline letters refer to, as he is a character that was respected by Josephus ie anti zealot and teacher and he was killed (possibly crucified?) by zealots, which is consistent with Paul’s (epistle) descriptions (You see I am still holding the line the the Epistle author is aligned with Josephus’s world view).

      With regard to the John the Baptist passage – I wonder how likely an interpolation could have been inserted within the first 100-150 years of the existence of Antiquities. I imagine there were hundreds of original copies surviving in the first half of the second century. I would suspect for an interpolation to take hold, it requires that the book becomes quite rare and only being maintained by one school. This interpolation would have had to have occurred in the mid second century just when Christianity is starting to take hold. It is quite clear that the only people interested in maintaining Josephus’s works at this point are Mandaeans presumably?

      I think this is worth looking at: (from Mandaean Book of John)
      http://rogueleaf.com/book-of-john/2011/11/16/30-jesus-comes-to-john-to-be-baptized/

      Regarding the naked fugitive – are you aware of the Secret Gospel of Mark’s take on this character?

      I had a probably wayward epiphany about this character recently – that if the naked man is the disciple whom jesus loved, then we have also a parallel here between King David and Jonathan. Jonathan took off his clothes at one stage for David! I won’t pursue the erotic angle too much here – that is for others to make sense of!

      The disciple who Jesus loved seems to be a different person in different Gospels, as I note it is Mary Magdelena in the Gospel of Mary, Thomas, Peter, John, Paul or James depending on which sect of Christianity you were into.
      Perhaps the ‘John’ option is most strongly argued, so in this case we have a historical name match to ‘Jonathan’. This option also offers the intrigue that Jesus singles out John as one who will live the longest, perhaps to reverse the situation of Jonathan who died young while David got to live to an old age. Jonathan is of course the son of Saul?

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      1. “The disciple who Jesus loved seems to be a different person in different Gospels”
        To me, this detail is important, and actually applies to a sort of adoptionism that is present with the Ebionites, Cerinthians, and others. The disciple whom Jesus loved was the Paraclete, IMHO…or it at least left room for the Paraclete and another leader within that generation.

        RE: Saulus, I agree – not much going on there, and the fact that it’s in Antiquities 20 is quite striking, considering so many other inklings from Ant 20 trickled into Christian writings, notably Acts. I think there were a particular group of people (I suppose the Ebionites, but there were probably others as well) who had a tendency to create a massive strawman, and overlay that strawman on top of the particular character they hated. In some cases, it’s Saulus, in others, it’s Simon the Cypriot (who I think becomes Simon Magus).

        RE: Naked fugitive. Yes, I have read Secret Mark! And isn’t it interesting that this is one of those passages only found in Mark?! I think this passage is original to the text, and this notion of a linen cloth acting as a cover had a lot of meanings among early users, specifically that the body of Jesus was the encapsulator of the Christ.

        RE: Mandaeans. Isn’t it interesting that the term Nasuraii (and various derivatives) get used in Mandaean vernacular? Of course, it’s not too great of a leap to presume sharedf common origins. My own personal speculation is that the Pseudo-Clementine Dositheus, Simon, John the Baptist triangle probably has explanatory value, and I’ve tinkered with the notion that Dositheus is another name for Theudas. I still have to revisit that, because that would tie up a great many details, specifically why Clement of Alexandria links Paul, Theudas, and Valentinus together…it would also explain why Acts 5 mentions Theudas at all…

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    1. The big news, of course, is that this finding was in Greek, and not Coptic. Which means that this particular text must have been pervasive enough to survive for centuries across cultures, languages, and geography.

      I find it irritating that, despite other translations of this same text explicitly call out that James was not Jesus’s biological brother, this article shamelessly claims James was Jesus’ brother.

      But taking a step back, the fact that so many of these texts have Jesus talking to [insert disciple here] about the heavenly realm supports my suspicion that all of the Gospel-like interactions with Jesus were simply revelations *FROM* another realm. The insertion of earthly elements into these revelations is simply a parable formulation, perhaps obvious to middle-Platonists. Put into context, consider the Gospel of Mark, which has Jesus’s last apostle (the one who received the spirit and became Paraclete) as Simon of Cyrene. Such a proposition was a political posturing, which is to say that it was the “last apostle” who would receive the Spirit. I think that’s why Paul is so clear in 1 Corin 15 that Cephas, James, the 12 (wasn’t Cephas part of the 12?), and the 500 all received the spirit before him. Paul was the last apostle, which means he was Simon of Cyrene (abstractly, at the very least). But this assumes that Paul was taking up a template that others before him had used: the notion that the each generation had its own Paraclete, and this Paraclete would receive special instruction and revelation about/from heaven from the Christ Spirit.

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      1. I wonder how did they arrive to the conclusion that it’s the original copy of a Greek heretical text. Paleography isn’t a precise science and has an error margin of +/-50 to 75 years for the dating alone. I’m waiting for the text critics like Bart Ehrman to weigh in. I think the researchers in the article are believing that Josephus refers to James the Brother of Jesus in the James Passage. I think this passage is partly interpolated unlike the TF which is fully interpolated. I think Josephus is referring to a Jesus but not Jesus of Nazareth and most importantly, not Jesus of the New Testament.

        Speaking of Christian apologists, here are two articles from New Testament scholar Larry Hurtado https://larryhurtado.wordpress.com/2017/12/04/mythical-jesus-the-fatal-flaws/
        https://larryhurtado.wordpress.com/2017/12/02/why-the-mythical-jesus-claim-has-no-traction-with-scholars/

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