A New Theory That Jesus Was King of Edessa? Not So Fast, Mr. Ellis!

Over the past few months–primarily last year–I have had a hand in debunking all sorts of nonsense relating to Jesus and the Bible. When reports appeared online of a new Markan manuscript fragment, I was quick to demonstrate that the fragment was a bad fake. Prior to that, rumors abounded about the importance of several dozen lead codices, but this proved to also be the product of a modern workshop, probably in Jordan, where fake artifacts and tourist trinkets are manufactured for profit–though it seems someone figured they could get more money with them by generating controversy (and it worked). Last year was a rough year for those who want to keep the field safe from pseudoscholars and fake archaeologists peddling sensational material for money, fame, or worse; frankly I’m a bit worn down.

But this year is shaping up to dominate the past few years, so far as sensational discoveries go. I read an article this morning on Yahoo where a man claims to have uncovered the truth about Jesus. Jesus was…wait for it… wait for it…. the prince/king of Edessa! Oh yes. Someone really went there–but not just any ‘someone’:

Following 25 years of research, Ralph Ellis has discovered that Jesus was a prince of Edessa in northern Syria.

That’s right. Though the article says nothing whatsoever about an academic affiliation, credentials, or if this individual has a grasp of the ancient, original languages. So I decided to do a search and I found his Amazon.com bio page. Here is a screen grab:

Ralph Ellis

Here is where it gets a little hairy. Does he have any noteworthy credibility? Well, apparently not. But should that stop him? I mean, it hasn’t stopped the Elkingtons from claiming they have uncovered the original texts of Jesus on lead tablets, it hasn’t stopped Simcha Jacobovici from claiming that he has found Atlantis, and it hasn’t Joe Atwill from claiming that Jesus was invented–along with Josephus–by the Roman Empire as some sort of practical joke against the Jews in an attempt to gain their loyalty and obedience. Hell, even Giorgio Tsoukalos has his own medium on a major network, spreading his ancient alien theories all over the place. I mean, having credentials or being affiliated academically hasn’t stopped these guys–so why should it stop him? Ellis looks on this whole ‘lacking credibility’ bit as an opportunity, in fact. His bio claims that:

Being independent from theological and educational establishments allows Ralph to tread where others do not dare, and it is through this independence that Ralph has discovered so many new biblical and historical truths.

Now, if by treading ‘where others do not dare’–‘others’ being, I suspect, those of us (students, professors) with academic affiliations to ‘theological and educational establishments’–he means he has the freedom (or independence) to ‘ speculate wildly on everything and anything related to the history or historicity of the biblical narratives without a need to justify or support the extraordinary claims he is making with evidence and careful research’ then he is correct. He doesn’t have to worry about supporting any claim he makes, or reporting to the head of his department, or worrying about whether he will receive tenure, or what other colleagues will think of him–all he has to worry about is how well his self-published drivel will sell.

He seems to be in good company as his readers often purchase other brilliant classics (note: sarcasm) such as the works of Zecharia Sitchin (the guy that claims the Sumerian annunaki were ancient alien astronauts, so too the biblical nephilim), Acharya S (Jesus was invented by ancient astrotheologists and based upon earlier astrological figures), Joe Atwill (see above), Joseph P. Farrell (published such pivotal works as Roswell and the Reich: The Nazi Connection–‘published’ through a distributor who specializes in this sort of…stuff), Ahmed Osman (an Egyptian-born author who talks a lot about secret histories of Moses and Jesus and the pharaohs), and the list goes on–many are unaffiliated, interested in extreme, fringe theories (with little or no supporting evidence), and who cannot seem to publish through an academic press (for whatever reason).

Then again, Ellis isn’t sure how long he has been studying the subject (25 years, according to the article, or 30 years, per his Amazon.com bio). But don’t let my words influence your opinion, let Ellis’ words prove his worth as a historian. Here is a snippet from his book Jesus, King of Edessa:


Yep. Brilliant.

I mean, why not? Because ‘Barabbas’ just can’t be Aramaic for ‘son of the father’, like every other scholar in the world argues (Barabbas = bar abba). Even though his full name is portrayed as ‘Jesus Barabbas’ in some variants as a play on Jesus the ‘son of man’, and has long been thought of as a metaphor for the Leviticus 16 atonement sacrifice for the sins of Israel (with Jesus as the sacrificial goat, while Barabbas is the scape-goat sent off in the wilderness). But what do other scholars with academic attachments (and credentials) know anyway? They have no independence to do real research; amirite, Ellis?

Well, we’re not done yet. The Yahoo.com article goes on to tell us more about all this Jesus of Edessa:

Readers might imagine that the true history of this region might undermine much of the biblical story that the gospel authors have crafted. But in reality the gospels always did say that Jesus was a Nazarene (Mat 2:23) and a king (Luk 23:38), and so this new analysis changes very little in the gospel story.

But that isn’t true, is it? Ellis has cherry-picked his verses without recognizing their significance. After all, Jesus is called a Nazarene because he is portrayed as being from the town of Nazareth (which is why he was called a Nazarene) which is explicitly states in 2:23, “…and he went and lived in a town called Nazareth. So was fulfilled what was said through the prophets: ‘He will be called a Nazarene.'” In other words, it was because he lived in Nazareth that he was called a Nazarene (i.e., that people from Nazareth were ‘Nazarenes’–not people from Edessa), not to be confused with Nazirites (which also appear in the New Testament). Now, maybe this was a pun by Matthew to signify that Jesus was also a Nazirite as well as a Nazorean, but he does not make the appropriate connections (as Luke seems to do later).

Additionally, the use of ‘King’ in Luke 23 is theologically rooted (i.e., Jesus is the King, in the heavenly sense, but used as satire by the Romans, which contradicts the claim made by Ellis). Ellis might have known this had he attended any sort of credible institution (theological or otherwise). The article goes on (unfortunately):

This is a scholarly study of all the available historical evidence, including the Tanakh, Talmud, Josephus Flavius, the Roman historians, and venerable Syriac historians like Moses of Chorene and Yohannes Drasxanakertci.

Well, I guess that settles it. It states it right there, this is a ‘scholarly study’, whereby ‘scholarly’ now means ’25 years of independent study with no credibility and zero accountability’. Man, what a shame that I’m spending all this money on an education when I could have just self-published this whole time!

But there is some concern here with the name he provides for Jesus in Edessa as well. He calls this king Izas Manu, but that is rather bizarre since the king in the first century was Izates (not Izas) and the two names (Jesus and Izates) do not even come from the same language, nor do they mean the same thing. Yeshua (ישוע) is a derivative of the Hebrew word for ‘savior’ or ‘rescuer’ while Izates (ایزد‎) is Persian for ‘divine being’/’god’. Ellis may want to stretch the meaning of Izates to Jesus by suggesting that Jesus was considered ‘god’ or ‘the son of god’ by his followers, but these are superficial correlations, and only useful to those with no grasp of ancient languages. As a friend noted, it would be like trying to compare modern English to Chinese.

And where exactly does ‘Manu’ come from? Josephus doesn’t refer to him as such, and only ever calls him Izates. Does Ellis link ‘Manu’ (or Emmanuel–the name he really wants) with Izates’ father Monobazus II? Is Ellis seriously attempting to link Izates bar Monobazus with a name like ‘Izas Manu’? Because that is what it seems like he has tried to do here. In his “sample article” (which is absolutely atrocious) he writes:

And when tracking the history of that same infant within the many chronicles of Saul-Josephus, it was apparent that he grew up to become Jesus of Gamala, who is also called King Izas of the Adiabene.

Unfortunately he has missed the mark. Who exactly is ‘Saul-Josephus’ anyway? Does he mean Josephus? And by the way, if you’re wondering who ‘Jesus of Gamala’ is, you’re better off not knowing. But if you really want to know, I suppose you can find information on it here. And yes, there was a guy who tried to sue the Catholic Church for ‘covering up’ the fact that Jesus of Nazareth was really Jesus of Gamala. I guess crazy attracts crazy.

Yeah, this is going to be a long year.

UPDATE 3/6/13:

Ralph Ellis has commented and I have responded to his “proofs” (which are nothing more than reciting the same thing over and over again in crazier ways).  You can read my response to his claims here.

15 Responses

  1. This analysis hardly scratches the surface. In reality:

    The biblical Jesus was called King Jesus Emmanuel.
    The historical Izas was called King Izas Manu(el) VI of Edessa.

    The biblical Jesus was a King of the Jews.
    The historical Izas was a defacto King of the Jews (because his mother, Queen Helena, was the defacto Queen of the Jews).

    The biblical Jesus was a Nazarene.
    The historical Izas was a Nazarene.

    The biblical Jesus was sent away to Egypt for his education.
    The historical Izas was sent away for his education, and appears to have visited Egypt and stayed in Jerusalem.
    … (his mother furnished the Temple of Jerusalem)

    The biblical Jesus’ disciples (Saul and Barnabas) took money from King Abgarus of Edessa, to provide famine relief for Jerusalem.
    The historical Izas-Manu’s father was the same King Abgarus of Edessa.

    The biblical Jesus was a revolutionary who fought the Jerusalem authorities and the Romans.
    The historical Izas was a revolutionary who fought the Jerusalem authorities and the Romans.

    The biblical Jesus was captured and crucified.
    The historical Izas was captured and crucified.

    The biblical Jesus survived the cross (by being taken down early).
    The historical Izas survived the cross (by being taken down early).

    The biblical Jesus was taken down by Joseph of Arimathaea.
    The historical Izas was taken down by Josephus Flavius.

    The biblical Jesus wore a Crown of Thorns.
    The historical Izas wore a Crown of Thorns.

    The biblical Jesus wore a purple cloak (the Imperial cloak).
    The historical Izas would have worn a purple cloak (the Imperial cloak), because he wanted to become Emperor.

    The biblical Jesus was born under the Eastern Star.
    The historical Izas was using the Star Prophesy of the Eastern Star to become Emperor.
    …. (you will note that it was Vespasian who took the Star Prophesy, and used it to become Emperor, as Tacitus and Suetonius confirm).

    I could go on, but you perhaps see my point. Jesus was a prince and king of Edessa, called King Izas Manu(el).

    And the reason why you have never heard of King Abgarus or King Manu (even though they were very famous historically), is because the Catholic Church has done everything in its power to delete them from history (even though Abgarus appears in Acts of the Apostles in Acts 11:27). This is the unspoken truth, that has remained hidden for nearly 2,000 years – the historical truth that the Catholic Church thought it had buried forever.


    Edit by Tom Verenna: I have responded to this craziness here: https://tomverenna.wordpress.com/2013/03/06/ralph-ellis-jesus-and-his-myth-of-the-king-jesus-of-edessa/ You are conflating multiple real people into your own fictional concoction you call ‘Izas Manu’.

  2. […] His publisher is one of the finest, no, I mean, oddest conspiracy publishers on the market. Tom does a good job of taking him down, so read his post […]

  3. And the reason why you have never heard of King Abgarus or King Manu (even though they were very famous historically), is because the Catholic Church has done everything in its power to delete them from history (even though Abgarus appears in Acts of the Apostles in Acts 11:27).

    (1) Abgarus is nowhere in Acts 11.27. You’re delusional. The passage reads: “During this time some prophets from Jerusalem came to Antioch.” Did you mean 11.28? Get the passage right, at least (after 25/30 years you’d think you’d get it right). And even 11.28 only mentions an Agabus (not Abgarus; Are you dyslexic and that is why you can’t keep these different people straight?), in Greek Ἄγαβος, which is not the same name as Abgar in Greek (Ἄβγαρος), but to someone like you, who is untrained and looking for superficial links to string a case upon, this probably looked the same. No, sorry, but you’re wrong. Or delusional. Your choice, really, but it can’t be anything else.

    (2) If the Catholic Church tried to cover up the facts about Abgar and Manu dynasties then they did a terrible job because Eusebius, a Christian historian, spends a lot of time fabricating a story about Abgar and, like all Armenian kings from Edessa, we have tons of historical information about him and the rest of them. They allowed Moses of Chorene to publish his hackjob of a history about Abgar the Black (Moses of Chorene is a saint, by the way) and then permitted the retelling of a narrative about Abgar the Great This is why I call you ‘ignorant’. Even your conspiracy theories have conspiracy theories. Your case reads like a smut magazine, not a scholarly argument. You conflate all sorts of things and use terrible logic to attach them all. It is the ‘Da Vinci Code mentality’: “What if A were really B, and what if C were really B, and what if B were really X, Y, and Z?” and so on and so forth. This is not how history is done. This is how quacks and sensationalists fabricate people and events in order to make money off gullible people.

  4. βαρβαρος, not βαρβαροσ

  5. Quite so.

  6. There are also no accent or breathing marks (i.e., βάρβαρος); I’m not sure why Ellis did not use Unicode. I can only guess he either doesn’t know how or he didn’t care. I can’t tell what font he used, but it is also possible he did not check the key-mapping guide. But then again, that is the problem with self-publishing and why academics generally frown upon it. I mean the guy could have bothered to transliterate the Greek.

  7. People like this Ralph and others specialise in the legerdemain of phonemes: doesn’t this name sound like this name! If you string together enough soundalikes, the gullible will think it must be incontrovertible proof. The question that is always most interesting to me is whether they deceive themselves too.

    Traduttore traditore! Each translation from one script or language to another allows an extra degree of freedom for bending the sounds of words to one’s will. Eventually, the soundalikes have to work in English because neither the proposer nor the gullible knows other languages, and, by then, all meaning and distinguishing features are worn away.

  8. Well said.

  9. […] A New Theory That Jesus Was King of Edessa? Not So Fast, Mr. Ellis! […]

  10. […] A New Theory That Jesus Was King of Edessa? Not So Fast, Mr. Ellis! […]

  11. […] A New Theory That Jesus Was King of Edessa? Not So Fast, Mr. Ellis! […]

  12. […] A New Theory That Jesus Was King of Edessa? Not So Fast, Mr. Ellis! […]

  13. […] A New Theory That Jesus Was King of Edessa? Not So Fast, Mr. Ellis! […]

  14. […] Tom Verenna has been doing the most to show the deficiencies in his work (especially here, here, here, and here), though Steve Caruso from Aramaic Blog has also been rather patient in showing how […]

  15. […] Tom Verenna first criticizes an article about Ellis’ arguments and conclusions. Note that he was looking at an article, not any of Ellis’ books. This is important because Ellis has been adamant that Tom is inappropriately reviewing his book yet having not read it. […]

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