7. [cont.] ERODOS CHRISTOS – ‘The Roman Near East, 31 BC’   Leave a comment

Image Caesarea Maritima, Roman colonia and the normal residence of the legatus and residence of the Tetrarch; built by “Herod”, @ 10 bce, in what today’s Palestinians call ‘The Zionist Entity’ {Israel, 1948 c.e.}

“This work [‘The Roman Near East 31 BC – AD 337’ by Fergus Millar] has long been awaited and will fill a very great need. It is an authoritative synoptic view of the entire Roman Near East, with reference to the most important recent discussions and discoveries.” – G.W. Bowersock, Institute for Advanced Study, Princeton

[Fergus Millar is Camden Professor of Ancient History, Oxford University]

Image Banyas, Temple of Pan, rebuilt by “Herod” b.c.e.; called Caesarea Philippi in the Bible: “When Jesus came into the coasts of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, saying, Whom do men say that I the Son of man am?” – Matthew 16:13

“And the next day we that were of Paul’s company departed, and came unto Caesarea: and we entered into the house of Philip the evangelist, which was one of the seven; and abode with him. And the same man had four daughters, virgins, which did prophesy. And as we tarried there many days, there came down from Judaea a certain prophet, named Agabus.” – Acts 21:8-10

Millar writes on p. 1: “Our difficulty in studying the ancient Near East is not only that modern Europeans approaching it cannot help doing so with a host of confused and half-formed preconceptions about the ‘Orient’. . .

“Bardesanes’ ‘Book of the Laws of Countries’, written in Syriac in the first part of the third century, and perhaps the only rival to Josephus’ ‘Antiquities’ as a contribution to the anthropology of the Roman Near East. . . [p. 11]

” . . . all the evidence cited for the worship of altars in particular or for aniconic cults in general, usually of large stones, comes not from the Hellenistic but from the Imperial period.” [p. 12]

“And the Doumatenoi of Arabia used each year to sacrifice a boy whom they buried beneath an altar, which they treat as a cult-statue.” [p. 13, footnote 31. Porphyry, De abst.II, 56,6]

” . . . moreover Theos Ouranos thought up baitulia, having devised stones invested with life.” [p. 13, Eusebius, Praep. Ev. I, 10,23]

” . . . one contemporary writer, the historian Herodian, clearly asserts that the stone which represented the god Elagabal at Emesa was imagined to have fallen from heaven. His words provide a clear example of how a Classical writer of the Imperial period may put that same distance between himself and the customs of the ‘Orient’ as the modern European observer tends to do: ‘There was no actual man-made statue of the god, the sort Greeks and Romans put up; but there was an enormous black stone, rounded at the base and coming to a point at the top, conical in shape and black. This stone is worshipped as though it were sent from heaven.’ [Herodian V, 3,5, Loeb. trans.] Whether the stone actually was a meteorite we cannot know; what is significant is the conception. But it is almost inevitable that speculation should lead one to think of a possible connection between the patterns of cult-practice visible here and the central role which Mahomet was to give to the black stone built into the Kaaba in the new cult he instituted at Mecca; this was one element which he took over from the existing pagan worship there.” [p. 15]

Image Banyas, Paneas, Grotto of Pan, Caesarea Philippi, Golan Heights on the disputed borders of Israel, Syria, and Lebanon, under Mount Hermon named after the god Hermes – mentioned frequently in the Gospels and Acts of the Apostles

Image newly discovered bust of Caesar Ptolemy XV {‘Caeserion’} , Heroides basilleia – It is a sad, determined face, of a young man whose father has been brutally murdered in Rome, and his mother at the very least has abdicated her throne in Alexandria

“But had the Near East really offered a distinctively favourable cultural and religious setting for Christianity since the time of Jesus? Had there been in this region gentile Christian communities using Aramaic or a dialect of it? The Jewish community of Dura-Europos had certainly used Aramaic, as well as Greek. But had the Christian community nearby? Even if we do not treat the question as a purely linguistic one, was there, as so many modern books presume, a distinctive ‘Syrian’ Christianity using Greek, which owed its character to its regional environment? If so, what would that mean? Of which of the many sub-regions of the Near East are we talking, and what are the criteria of ‘Syrian’ Christianity?” [p. 21] ” . . . But it is suggestive that in the later second century the bishop Melito of Sardis acknowledged that it had been by divine providence that Christianity, beginning among barbaroi, had coincided with the foundation of the Imperial monarchy (basileia) by Augustus. Since that time the power of the Empire had grown, and Christianity had flourished with it.” [p. 22, note 59. Eusebius HE V, 26, 7-8]

Forgetting Josephus {although he has many, many, complimentary things to say about some of the Herodian Family} and Eusebius for a while, as unreliable and biased ‘historians’, it’s better to turn to Strabo and his ‘Geography’ which was written in the last part of the reign of Augustus {c. 31 bce-14 ce} as a more factual report. According to Bowersock in ‘Roman Arabia’, among Strabo’s sources about the Nabataeans was a Hellenistic writer named Agatharchides of Cnidus, who had visited their capital of Petra. Diodorus of Sicily had also written about the earlier Nabataeans as well, and he was a contemporary acquaintance of Strabo in Rome during the time all these events concerning Herod were happening, and they surely met and exchanged notes.

Bowersock supplements Millar’s exhaustive details about the quasi-Arabic Nabataeans, at the time of Caesar Ptolemy {47 bce – 40 ce}, by explaining that Strabo reports the whole area was treated in a unique and “unexplainable” way by Augustus. “The geographer Strabo stated unambiguously, in a passage that has been curiously neglected, that in his day the Nabataeans, like the Syrians, were subjects of the Romans. [note 36. Strabo 16, 4.21 C 779] . . . The words of Strabo can mean only one thing: the territory of the Nabataeans was, at the time he was writing, a province of the Roman Empire. Yet it is perfectly well known that Aretas IV ruled for some forty-nine years {9 bce – 40 ce} with great success and that the kingdom of the Nabataeans did not become a province of Rome until the age of Trajan. For all that, Strabo ought to have known what he was saying, and his remarks should perhaps be considered in the light of other possibilities than simple egregious error. It is worth asking whether the kingdom of Aretas was actually annexed for a brief interval and returned subsequently as a client state of Rome.” [p. 54, Bowersock]

There are numerous other examples of puzzled historians, both ancient and modern, who couldn’t understand the special government from Rome not only of Arabia and Judaea but also Egypt at that crucial point of 31 bce. They all admit that Egypt especially was kept hidden from the Senate, governed by a personal, hand-picked friend of Augustus. For the next 70 years the whole area was administered secretly, first by Augustus, and then Tiberius, Caius Caligula, and Claudius, who must have all been in on the sacred Family Secret – or how else did a Divi Filius of a mythical Iesous {Son of Isis, whom Cleopatra identified with} the anointed Christos King appear simultaneously on the scene, protected no less by successive all-powerful Emperors in a newly instituted Imperial Cult that began with his father Gaius Julius Caesar? The concurrent appearance of a genius architect-carpenter with the title of Erodos Herode, who also wrote an extensive Memoir of those years of his career with the help of his old tutor Nicolaus of Damascus, and which has subsequently disappeared (or has it?)?

“We have then to consider the possibility that in about 3 B.C. a province of Arabia might have been in existence. This is precisely the problematic time after the death of Herod.” [Bowersock, p. 55]

“King Aretas {ERODOS} IV is regularly described on coins and inscriptions as “the lover of his people” (rhm ‘mh). To judge from the unprecedented prosperity and growth of the Nabataean kingdom during the long years of his reign, extending as far as A.D. 40, the appellation was richly deserved. With the newly won security in the central regions of Herod’s former kingdom, Aretas had less to fear from the Jews.” [p. 59]

“From approximately A.D. 1 to 30 the literary record of historical events concerning the Nabataeans is silent.” [p. 60]

Or is it?

We come to Josephus. No responsible historian or theologian can dismiss everything he wrote, and whose major characters of ‘Herod the Great’ and his extensive, confusing family genealogy are still cited routinely, sedulously, by Biblical scholars as just about the only resource they have to supplement their holy Bible. In it, they love to highlight the villainous deeds of the murderous, treacherous Herod whom everyone loves to hate even more than Judas or Pontius Pilate – who may or may not be named in the ‘Antiquities’ and the ‘History’ as the same real-life characters in the New Testament – and generally ignoring his more provable architectural and political feats of true genius. Just one example among many complimentary quotes by Josephus, about a supposed son of Herod the Grandfather is a Tetrarch familiar to Biblical students named Philip, who supposedly succeeded his father when he died somewhere around 8 bce to 6 ce, if you’re to trust the confusing, contradictory Scriptures and/or Josephus:

“6. (106) About this time it was that Philip, Herod’s brother, departed this life, in the twentieth year of the reign of Tiberius, [footnote by William Whiston, translator 1736, “This calculation, from all Josephus’s Greek copies is exactly right; for since Herod died about September, in the fourth year before the Christian era, and Tiberius began, as is well known, Aug. 19, A.D. 14, it is evident that the 37th year of Philip, reckoned from his father’s death, was the 20th of Tiberius, or near the end of A.D. 33 (the very year of our Savior’s death also), or, however, in the beginning of the next year, A.D. 34. This Philip the tetrarch seems to have been the best of all the posterity of Herod, for his love of peace, and his love of justice.” p. 483] after he had been tetrarch of Trachonitis, and Gaulonitis, and of the nation of the Bataneans also, thirty-seven years. He had shown himself a person of moderation and quietness in the conduct of his life and government; (107) he constantly lived in that country which was subject to him; [footnote. Whiston, “An excellent example this!”] he used to make his progress with a few chosen friends; his tribunal also, on which he sat in judgement, followed him in his progress; and when anyone met him who wanted his assistance, he made no delay but had his tribunal set down immediately, wheresoever he happened to be, and sat down upon it, and heard his complaint: he there ordered the guilty that were convicted to be punished, and absolved those that had been accused unjustly. (108) He died at Julias; and when he was carried to that monument which he had already erected for himself beforehand, he was buried with great pomp. His principality Tiberius took (for he left no sons behind him) and added it to the province of Syria, but gave order that the tributes which arose from it should be collected, and laid up in his tetrarchy.” [Josephus, Book 18, Chapter 4, 6. ‘The Antiquities of the Jews‘]

– – – to be continued – – –









Posted April 12, 2012 by dionoia in Uncategorized

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