Lena Einhorn on the Figure of Jesus and ‘the Egyptian’

Philip Davies sent along Lena Einhorn’s paper from SBL and I thought I’d share it with my readers.  Dr. Einhorn has been known to me since 2008 when an earlier version of this paper came across my desk, submitted to Thomas Thompson and I to review for inclusion into our volume ‘Is This Not the Carpenter’.  While we both enjoyed the paper, we did not see it as a good fit for the volume as a whole.  I am pleased to see that Dr. Einhorn has vetted the paper a great deal and fleshed out some of the concepts a little more and has, in fact, produced quite a compelling paper.  Here is a snippet:

One of the limitations facing historical Jesus studies has been that the New Testament is the only source of first century texts in which Jesus unequivocally is described. This is in spite of the fact that the period in other respects is fairly well documented. Flavius Josephus wrote De bello Judaico and Antiquitates Judaicae in the 70s and the 90s C.E., respectively. Both works describe personalities mentioned in the Gospels: Pilate, Annas, Caiaphas, Quirinius, etc. Josephus also describes several Jewish messianic leaders of the first century: Simon, Athronges, Judas the Galilean, Theudas, ‘The Egyptian’, Menahem, etc. But excepting Testimonium Flavianum (A.J. 18.63-64) – by most scholars considered at least a partial later Christian interpolation – Jesus from Nazareth is not visible in the works of Josephus. Nor was he, according to Photius, described in the now lost works of another first century local historian, Justus of Tiberias. Only from the second century do we begin to see more unequivocal extra-biblical references to Jesus.

The fact that the Gospels describe Jesus as someone with a large following, and one whose trial involved two high priests, the tetrarch of Galilee, and the prefect of Iudaea, heightens the discrepancy between sources.

Jesus-and-the-Egyptian-Prophet-12.11.25.pdf (application/pdf Object)

I must admit I had not considered the role of the robbers in the Gospel narratives as particularly odd until I read her paper.   I am not entirely convinced of her argument (that Jesus and the Egyptian are the same), since I feel that many of the similarities come from a familiarity between some of the Gospel authors an Josephus (that is to say, they imitated Josephus).  But in my humble opinion it is definitely worth a read and should be discussed in greater detail by the community.  The concept behind the robbers in both Josephus and the Gospels does have its own implications that have been missed by many an analysis on the subject.

5 Responses

  1. “I am not entirely convinced of her argument (that Jesus and the Egyptian are the same), since I feel that many of the similarities come from a familiarity between some of the Gospel authors an Josephus (that is to say, they imitated Josephus).”

    I agree with the influence of Josephus on the Gospels (particularly after reading Steve Mason’s book), but perhaps there isn’t such a big difference between the Gospel writers basing Jesus on the Egyptian and simply imitating or incorporating Josephus.

    Either way, if Einhorn’s interpretation of the Gospels, Josephus, and other historical material is valid, then we have an individual and a setting that, directly or indirectly, forms the historical kernel of Jesus and the Gospel narratives — filled in, of course, with material from the Septuagint, Homer, and other traditions.

  2. It just isn’t a very convincing argument; there are not enough data points to really make a case. We have one author–Josephus–and you can’t really graph it until you have a selection of texts to draw from. Philo talks about all sorts of rabble and atrocities taking place in the first century so one can’t completely dismiss robbers either. I’m not sold on it and I feel that there are far better evidences that show that the Gospel author Luke knew Josephus so it is a moot point, really. It is interesting, of course, but improbable. I still think it needs to be analyzed, discussed, but it will not be strong enough to prove any sort of case because we just don’t have enough data.

  3. That is also why I’m an agnostic on Jesus. There just isn’t enough data to make any sort of strong conclusion.

  4. A possible evidence in favor of the Egyptian.
    In my own work on the Mason Neapolitan Prince Raimondo de Sangro,
    Rum Molh, page 242, I wrote:
    “Always in the letter to Tschudy, Raymond wrote this sentence: “Pursue, Brother, the ineffable virtues of the Word and hidden “.
    The encrypted word is “Ormus”.
    Ormus was an Alexandrian Gnostic who, approached to Christianity in 46 AD, had merged the Egyptian mystical doctrines with the new Christian teachings. This new doctrine passed to the Templars and from these to the rose-cross. In 1118 they were known by the name of “Knights of Palestine” or “Brothers of the Rose-Cross of the East””.

    In my new work “KRST or Jesus to Solar Myth. A new mythical and allegorical exegesis Reveals contents of the Gospels. New hypothesis on the historical Jesus” deepen this suggestion and I identify, but before the publication of the work of Lena Einhorn, jesus with the Egyptian. In support of this I report more elements than those highlighted by Einhorn.

    Not wanting to be too wordy I carry only this possible reconstruction:

    The dating of the events of the Gospels was made slip of at least twenty years back, perhaps to associate Jesus with John the Baptist, as another Prophet was necessary to be associate with Jesus for creating the solar allegory. Jesus, born twenty years after the supposed date of 7 BC, we can assume around 13, it may still have been a pupil of John, if it was truly a historical character, until his death, in 35. He would then went to Egypt at the age of twenty-two, and then would have had thirty-three years in the 46 meeting with Mark and forty years in the episode of the Mount of Olives.
    To move everything forward of twenty years got a problem with the chronology of events. The stoning of Stephen who is supposed to have occurred in 36-38, then about nine years before the possible onset of preaching in 46, would not be compatible with this hypothesis but the date, as reported in Acts, may have been moved back as the Gospels. Moreover, even the presence of Peter in Rome from 42 and the alleged expulsion of Jews and Christians from Rome in 49-50 are highly controversial. The story of Paul of Tarsus would overlap with that of Jesus and thus it would seem impossible that they have not known, and indeed, in the light of the passage of Acts 21,37-38, the question arises whether any of the multiple personalities of Paul of Tarsus may overlap with the Egyptian.

    Some my articles: http://independent.academia.edu/PierTulip

  5. I apologize for my english. There are some errors in the translation.

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