Did the Christian Church rewrite history?
In the midst of her research on the historical Jesus, scholar Lena Einhorn stumbled upon a surprising find. While reading through narratives of the Jewish revolt by first-century historian Flavius Josephus, Einhorn encountered a number of similarities to the Bible. These parallelsall limited to a short period of timeinclude an unnamed and mysterious messianic leader strikingly similar to the Jesus described in the Gospelsonly he’s not the peaceful miracle worker we know so well.
Significantly, Einhorn found that historical records consistently place these events (which allude to the conspicuous figure in Josephus’s writings) twenty years later than in the New Testament. Twenty years, with precision, every time.
A Shift in Time explores the possibility that there may have been a conscious effort by those writing and compiling the New Testament to place Jesus’s ministry in an earlier, less violent time period than when it actually happened. In this groundbreaking book, Einhorn argues that when the bible and the accounts of first-century historians are compared side by side, it is clear that the events that shaped the Christian world were not exactly as they seem.
Elements of this emerging hypothesis were included in Einhorn’s previous book,The Jesus Mystery, originally published in Swedish in 2006 and later published in the United States. Much has happened since then and Einhorn has presented her findings in various academic forums. The publication of A Shift in Time marks the first complete presentation of the full details of the hypothesis and a discussion of its conclusions and inevitable implications.
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About the Author
Lena Einhorn, MD, PhD, is an acclaimed filmmaker, author, and former medical researcher with a PhD in virology and tumor biology. As a filmmaker, she has written and produced multiple medical documentaries for independent production companies as well as for PBS. Later in her career, she branched out into nonmedical subjects and wrote and directed various award-winning dramas and documentaries, including the series From the Shadows of the Past, which explores three historical puzzles, biblical and nonbiblical. In 2007, her first book on the historical Jesus, The Jesus Mystery, was published in English.
Read an Excerpt
ONE OF THE PROBLEMS FACING ALL HISTORICAL JESUS STUDIES HAS been, and continuous to be, that there is only one source of contemporary, first century, testimony in which Jesus is unequivocally described: the New Testament texts. This is peculiar, since that period in other respects is well documented by Roman and Jewish historians of the time.
Among scholars today, the most common explanation for this paradox has been that Jesus in reality must have been fairly unknown in his own era.
This interpretation, however, fails to account for the fact that the New Testament describes Jesus as someone with a large following, and one whose trial involved both high priests in Jerusalem (Annas and Caiaphas), as well as the Jewish ruler of Jesus's home province Galilee (Herod Antipas), and the Roman ruler of Iudaea (Pontius Pilate).
It also fails to account for the fact that when non-biblical accounts of Jesus do materialize, in the next century, we also find texts that speak out against him. As a rule, these neither deny his existence nor do they try to belittle his importance. In fact, also these polemic texts tend to describe Jesus as a person with a large following.CHAPTER 2
AFTER THEY HAD FINISHED THE LAST SUPPER, JESUS AND HIS DISCIPLES went to the Mount of Olives to quietly await his arrest, which would occur at the hands of people sent out by the high priests. This is how all three Synoptic Gospels — Matthew, Mark, and Luke — present this event.
One Gospel account, however, differs slightly: in John chapter 18 we read that the people sent out by the high priests on this occasion were accompanied by the soldiers and their officer (or, in other translations, "the band" and "the captain").
But it is when we go to the Greek original of Johns Gospel that we find that this account stands out more than just slightly: the original word for the soldiers is speira, and the original word for "their officer" is chiliarchos. A speira is a Roman cohort of six hundred to one thousand soldiers, and chiliarchos means "commander of one thousand." Thus, in the Gospel of John, there is a definite suggestion of a battle on the Mount of Olives preceding Jesus's arrest. This interpretation is reinforced by Luke 22:36, which states that Jesus prior to leaving for the Mount of Olives tells his disciples that "the one who has no sword must sell his cloak and buy one."
Curiously, the main chronicler of the times, Flavius Josephus, describes just such a battle on the Mount of Olives — indeed a battle between the followers of a Jewish messianic leader and a Roman cohort. Like Jesus, this messianic leader had previously dwelled in the wilderness. Like Jesus, he acquired a large following, and raised the fear and ire of the authorities. And like Jesus, he told his followers that he would show them from hence how, at his command, "the walls of Jerusalem would fall down."
The only problem is: according to Josephus, this event on the Mount of Olives did not occur under Pontius Pilate. It occurred twenty years later.CHAPTER 3
ON TRYING TO FIND JESUS IN THE HISTORICAL SOURCES
EVER SINCE GERMAN BIBLICAL SCHOLAR HERMANN SAMUEL REIMARUS began his quest for the historical Jesus, more than two and a half centuries ago, scholars have examined, and attempted to determine, the historical facts behind the narratives of the New Testament. Did Jesus of Nazareth really exist as a historical person, and, if so, who was he? If his movement really did emerge in the late 20s or early 30s CE, as the Gospels tell us, what kind of movement was it known as among contemporaries? Can the four Gospel accounts (which are usually assumed to have been penned between 68 and 110 CE) be corroborated by non-biblical first century sources?
And the problem these scholars invariably have come up against is this: outside of the New Testament texts, first century historical sources, with one dubious exception, have nothing to tell us about the messianic leader Jesus from the Galilean town of Nazareth, crucified in the early to mid-30s CE. Nor of his movement. Contemporary historians are essentially silent.
At first glance, this may not seem so peculiar. We are, after all, talking about events that occurred two thousand years ago, perhaps long enough to have been sifted out in the ever-diluting stream of historical narrative. And yet, as we know, certain eras — even ancient eras — have been so tumultuous and historically decisive that contemporary narrators found it essential to preserve them, and others made sure that these narratives were passed down through the ages. The particular period which we are talking about, the period when Jesus is said to have lived and worked, is indeed one of those well-documented eras. Because it was the era when the Jewish nation in Judea and Galilee was destroyed.
Let us begin by taking a closer look at this pivotal period in Jewish history. Not just to paint a backdrop, but also, as we shall later see, because the tumultuous politics of the time may have had a stronger impact on the work and actions of Jesus than a superficial look at the New Testament texts might lead us to believe.
* * *
When Jesus, according to New Testament chronology, is born, Judea and Galilee — the centers of Jewish settlement — are in the midst of upheaval. About six decades earlier, in 63 BCE, the Jewish nation had lost its short-lived independence, after power struggles between two Hasmonean princes had led both of them to more or less invite the Roman army to intervene. Since then, Rome has ruled. But it has ruled through instinct — at times granting the Jews something akin to autonomy (or at least allowing Jewish client kings to run the affairs of the country), and at other, often more tumultuous, times taking direct control, to the point of appointing and deposing even the Jewish high priests in Jerusalem. But to the chagrin of the Roman authorities, the population often has not responded to this kindly. Each movement away from autonomy, or each perceived affront to their laws or traditions, invariably has put the Jews — who never accepted their loss of independence — on edge, and occasionally on the verge of rebellion.
When Jesus is born, King Herod the Great is either at the end of his reign (according to the Gospel of Matthew), or has been dead for ten years (according to the Gospel of Luke). And whether one looks upon this Jewish client king, Herod, as a paranoid madman or not, it is undoubtedly so that the Romans during Herod's long reign more or less had left the Jewish realm alone. Herod, after all, had been powerful, and he had put much effort into pleasing the Romans as well as the Jews (something at which he was somewhat less successful). After Herod's death, in 4 BCE, Roman Emperor Augustus at first aspires to keep things as they are, and the nation is divided between Herod's sons (they will all have the name "Herod" attached to their names, although this is not always indicated). Herod Antipas gets Galilee and Perea, in the north and east, Archelaus gets the central parts — Judea, Samaria and Idumea — and Philip gets the areas north-east of Lake Galilee. Herod Antipas and Philip are given the title tetrarch ("Ruler of a quarter"), and Archelaus is entitled ethnarch ("Ruler of a nation").
But the ruler of the heartland, Archelaus, in particular, had already proven to be a poor leader. Incapable of controlling the escalating tumults, he had resorted to extreme cruelty and violence. And while he is away in Rome to negotiate with Emperor Augustus about the succession, tumults erupt all over the province. This insurrection is finally crushed only after the Roman Governor of Syria, Varus, has two thousand Jews crucified. Archelaus returns, but fails to gain the trust of the people of Judea, the central and most important part of the Jewish realm (not least because Jerusalem lies here), and this Jewish king is eventually, in the year 6 CE, summoned to Rome, where he is deprived of his crown and banished to Gaul. Yet, the Roman emperor does little to please the belligerent Jews; Archelaus is not succeeded by another Jewish king. This time Rome takes direct control. And it does so by sending a new Roman governor, Quirinius, to Syria, and then putting him in charge of Judea as well. The governor immediately proceeds to start registering the Jews and leveling taxes on them, something which of course raises the ire of the population even further.
Interestingly, aspects of this crucial event appear also in the New Testament, in the Gospel of Luke:
In those days a decree went out from Emperor Augustus that all the world should be registered. This was the first registration and was taken while Quirinius was governor of Syria. All went to their own towns to be registered. Joseph also went from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to the city of David called Bethlehem, because he was descended from the house and family of David. He went to be registered with Mary, to whom he was engaged and who was expecting a child. While they were there, the time came for her to deliver her child.
The phrase "this was the first registration and was taken while Quirinius was governor of Syria" is in fact the crucial piece of information which allows us to pinpoint the time of Jesuss birth, at least according to the Gospel of Luke. We know that Quirinius became governor in Syria shortly after Archelaus was deposed, in 6 CE. And we also know that the registration, or census, which was done in order to level the tax, was performed soon thereafter, thus in 6 or 7 CE. Consequently, we can deduce that Luke puts the time of Jesuss birth at 6 or 7 CE. But curiously, the most important aspect of this census is not mentioned in the Gospel: the census, and ensuing taxation, became the starting shot for a major anti-Roman revolt. A revolt which came to define Jewish anti- Roman resistance in the following seven decades of Jewish life in this area. Roman-Jewish historian Flavius Josephus, our main source of information about the first century Jewish realm, writes, in fact, that the rebel movement was founded with the census revolt (which is, as we shall see, perhaps a matter of interpretation). This seminal revolt was led by a man called Judas the Galilean.
Judas ... taking with him Sadduc, a Pharisee, became zealous to draw them to a revolt, who both said that this taxation was no better than an introduction to slavery, and exhorted the nation to assert their liberty.
Although the revolt — as described by Josephus — was sparked by a taxation of Judea, it is no mere coincidence that Judas was a Galilean. The Galileans were known as particularly averse to foreign domination — and particularly prone to act. As Josephus put it, they "have been always able to make a strong resistance on all occasions of war; for the Galileans are inured to war from their infancy, and have been always very numerous; nor hath the country been ever destitute of men of courage, or wanted a numerous set of them."
The census revolt was violently crushed by the Roman authorities, and for some decades thereafter the Jewish rebel movement remained dormant. But the rebels would eventually regroup and reemerge. The religiously inspired and violent movement founded by Judas the Galilean — later often loosely referred to as the Zealot movement — would ultimately, six decades later, be at the helm of the Jewish War against Rome, the war bringing about the fall of Jerusalem, and the end of the Jewish nation as a geographical and political entity.
It is no doubt interesting that the Gospel of Luke not only places the birth of Jesus at this pivotal moment of Jewish-Roman history, the census revolt, but also defines the time of birth by specifically mentioning the census, and yet without here mentioning the historically more important revolt and de facto birth of the anti-Roman rebel movement in its organized form. Headed by a Galilean, no less.
What makes Lukes narrative even more curious is the fact that the only other Gospel mentioning Jesuss birth, namely Matthew, places it in a completely different era, before the death of Herod the Great (4 BCE), thus at least ten years prior to the census. To further complicate matters, Luke indicates that John the Baptist — Jesuss forerunner — who (according to the same Gospel) was the same age as Jesus, was conceived "in the days of King Herod of Judea". Not at the time of the census, thus. One must ask: why this considerable discrepancy between the two Gospels — as well as within Luke itself? Is it merely due to a mistake on the part of either Matthew or Luke? Or could it be that the designated time of Jesuss birth in at least one of the cases is symbolic rather than real?
The Jewish revolt against Roman taxation is thus quickly quashed, and while Galilee continues to be ruled by a Jewish provincial ruler, Herod Antipas, the Roman province of Iudaea — consisting of Judea, Samaria and Idumea — now becomes home to a string of Roman procurators, or prefects, as the early ones are called. One of these prefects is named Pontius Pilate — according to the New Testament, the Roman ruler at the time of the crucifixion of Jesus. Pilate rules Iudaea from about 26 to 36 CE.
The prefect, or procurator, resides in the coastal city of Caesarea, where he has his pretorium, formerly the palace of Herod. Only on very special occasions, usually the major Jewish festivals, does he venture to Jerusalem, a city which always had been, and would continue to be, a seat of fomenting upheaval, particularly around the festivals, when massive numbers of Jews from all over the Jewish realm gather there.
But, as mentioned, this period — from the crushing of the census revolt until almost four decades later — is still one of relative calm. On a few occasions, these decades will see major protests from the Jews — usually in response to a perceived desecration of Jewish law or institutions — but no armed resistance, much less any rebellion. As Roman historian Tacitus writes in his Histories: Under Tiberius all was quiet. Tiberius was Roman emperor between 14 and 37 CE.
It is only in the year 44 CE that the followers — in fact heirs — of Judas the Galilean are moved to act once again. And what stirs them seems to be the death of a king, one by the name of Agrippa I. After living under Roman procuratorship for many years, the Jews of Judea had in 41 CE, along with the people of the rest of the Jewish realm, been finally united under a Jewish ruler — and a popular one at that. Herod Agrippa I, nephew of Herod Antipas and grandson of Herod the Great, had developed from a spoiled child growing up in Caesars court in Rome to a not only shrewd, but also very diplomatic — indeed empathetic — ruler of the recalcitrant Jews. His people cherished him, with a love bordering on devotion, after suffering for so many years under cruel Roman procurators. But it all ended, most abruptly, at a festival in Caesarea. As Flavius Josephus tells us, the king had put on a garment wholly of silver, and when he sat in the theater in front of the multitude, the people thought him so magnificent that they cried out that he must be a god. "Upon this the king did neither rebuke them, nor reject their impious flattery," Josephus writes, "but as he presently afterward looked up, he saw an owl sitting on a certain rope over his head, and immediately understood that this bird was the messenger of ill tidings, as it had once been the messenger of good tidings to him; and fell into the deepest sorrow. A severe pain also arose in his belly, and began in a most violent manner." As the stomach pains become ever more ferocious, Agrippa is carried off the stage. He dies five days later.
Interestingly — and perhaps not without significance — this episode, or one very similar to it, is told also by those who authored the New Testament. In the Acts of the Apostles, the fifth book of the New Testament, we find the following mysterious text (as mentioned, the name "Herod" could be attached to the name of any ruler of the Herodian dynasty):
On an appointed day Herod put on his royal robes, took his seat on the the platform, and delivered a public address to them. The people kept shouting, "The voice of a god, and not of a mortal!" And immediately, because he had not given the glory to God, an angel of the Lord struck him down, and he was eaten by worms and died.
Acts of the Apostles 12:21–23
The death of Agrippa I (which may or may not have been murder at the hands of Rome) was another pivotal event in the development of the anti-Roman resistance movement. For Agrippa's death immediately brought back the hated Roman procurators, and this time not only to Judea, but also to Galilee, and virtually all of the rest of the country as well. All semblances of autonomy are now lost, and the people respond accordingly.(Continues…)
Excerpted from "A Shift in Time"
Copyright © 2016 Lena Einhorn.
Excerpted by permission of Skyhorse Publishing.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Table of Contents
On Trying to Find Jesus in the Historical Sources,
The Timing of Events Depicted in the Gospels,
Chronological Enigma One: On Theudas, and Other Messianic Leaders,
Chronological Enigma Two: Of Robbers and Rebels,
Chronological Enigma Three: Crucifixions,
Chronological Enigma Four: The Conflict between Jews and Samaritans,
Chronological Enigma Five: Stephen,
People in Positions of Authority,
Chronological Enigma Six: The Two High Priests,
Chronological Enigma Seven: Pilate vs. Felix,
Chronological Enigma Eight: The Return from Egypt,
Chronological Enigma Nine: Jesus vs. "The Egyptian",
The Events on the Mount of Olives,
The New Testament, "The Egyptian," and the Sicarii,
Chronological Enigma Ten: John the Baptist,
Writing on Two Levels,
Chronological Enigma Eleven: The Raising of the Dead,
Chronological Enigma Twelve: The Mad Man from Gerasa,
Chronological Enigma Thirteen: Ananias and Peter,
An Alternate Role for the New Testament?,
Possible Arguments Against a Time Shift,
Nature of the Parallels,
Sources for Ancient Texts,