copyright 2008 Stephan Huller
At its most basic the gospel makes clear two basic facts – the mention of a Wednesday Passover when Jesus and the disciples ate the so-called “Last Supper” and his resurrection on the subsequent Sunday. Notice that it is said here “Wednesday” and not “Thursday” is the proper date of the meal. The list of events in the narrative demands a starting point on Wednesday night. As Epiphanius (A.D. 367-403), the bishop at Salamis wrote that "Wednesday and Friday are days of fasting up to the ninth hour because, as Wednesday began the Lord was arrested and on Friday he was crucified."
The list of dates for the sunset starting the 15th of the first month of Nissan from Jack Finegan’s Handbook of reveal that only two dates from the period support this Wednesday date for the Passover and a corresponding Easter Sunday:
30 A.D. Wednesday 5th April (Easter Sunday 9th April).
31 A.D. Monday 26th March.
32 A.D. Monday 15th April.
33 A.D. Friday 3rd April.
34 A.D. Monday 23rd March
35 A.D. Monday 11th April.
36 A.D. Friday, 30th March.
37 A.D. Wednesday 21st March (Easter Sunday 25th March).
38 A.D. Monday 7th April.
39 A.D. Friday 28th March.
40 A.D. Friday 16th April.
Jewish days begin at night and continue through to the next one of our days. A day that begins at sunset on Wednesday carries through to Thursday in a Roman calendar. So it is that the gospel narrative really began on Wednesday and thus we are left with only two real possibilities to choose between for the correct dating of the Passion. It is either Wednesday the 6th of April, 30 CE or Wednesday the 22nd of March, 37 CE.
As we said earlier, only one minor sect in second century Christianity picks the former date – i.e. 30 CE. Irenaeus’ gospels can only be used to superficially conform to this date as the beginning of Jesus’ ministry. Nevertheless Irenaeus goes out of his way to emphasize many years of preaching for Jesus. In later times a two or three year ministry is developed but Irenaeus emphasizes one which lasted nineteen years. Why nineteen? It should be obvious. By then the same cycle of days from year 30 repeat themselves in year 49. The whole idea is undoubtedly rooted in a tradition that Jesus was also crucified in a ‘forty ninth year.’ We will develop this further in the next section.
While all modern scholars and ancient Church Fathers naively use Irenaeus’ texts to arrive at a date around 30 CE – 31, 32 or 33 CE most typically - it has to be emphasized time and again that all these efforts prove ultimately misguided. None of these dates allow for a Wednesday start to Passover. None of these dates end allow for an Easter Sunday Resurrection. Indeed it is worth noting that not a single ancient Church tradition argues for a 30 CE date.
So we have to abandon 30 CE and look again at the Alexandrian tradition’s choice of 37 CE. We have to begin with the clear understanding that the earliest Alexandrian witnesses, based on their ‘preference’ for the Gospel of Mark, emphasize only a one year ministry for Jesus. We have already seen that one of its most famous representatives from the fifth century emphasizes Sunday March 25th. It all comes together when we realize that the Passover in 37 CE begins on Wednesday March 21st, Easter Sunday would correspond to March 25th in that same year.
The point now becomes clear that when we look at all the surviving reports from the Church Fathers the tradition Alexandrian emphasis on the dating of the Passion in 37 CE was widely influential. Even if most of these authorities got the year wrong or the specific identification of March 25th as the date of the Resurrection something of the original Alexandrian understanding has made its way past Irenaeus’ deliberately falsified gospels often in an admittedly garbled form.
It is absolutely significant that almost every single surviving ‘remembrance’ of the month and day of the Passion never goes any later than March 25th. This will finally help solidify our 37 CE dating in the Alexandrian tradition. The one tradition which dissents – that associated with a late second century ‘prophetic’ Church from the province of Phrygia in Asia Minor – is intimately connected with the tradition behind Irenaeus. It attempts to argue for that earlier date in 30 CE.
I will make the case that this tradition is wholly unreliable. It has at its very core a belief in the new truths coming from ‘new spiritual revelations’ which accounts for its going against the grain of virtually every other ancient witness out there. For the moment however let’s explain why it is that at least a handful of Christians got confused about the dating of Easter.
What we will attempt now is a systematic categorization of all references to the dating of the month and date of the Passion. These reports inevitably fall into one of two categories – those Church Fathers who say that Jesus was crucified on March 23rd and Christ resurrected March 25th and those who say that he was crucified on March 25th making the Resurrection necessarily occur on the 27th of the month. This second hypothesis can easily be dismissed because none of the years presented here offer up the possibility of a Sunday March 27 dating for Easter. The later tradition has clearly confused what March 25th is, deliberately or not.
(a) those who held a March 23rd Crucifixion/March 25th Resurrection
• Alexander of Jerusalem (c. 218 CE) according to a fragment cited by Dobschutz (T u U xi 1 p 136 ff) cites March 25 as the true date of the Resurrection citing ‘apostolic documents.’ It is important to note that Alexander was connected to the Alexandrian tradition through Origen who he allowed to speak in the churches of Caesarea after he was banished from Egypt.
• Julius Africanus (c. 221 CE) another figure intimately connected with the Alexandrian tradition and who Alden Mosshammer (The Christian Era of Julius Africanus with an Excursus on Olympiad Chronology) notes dated the Incarnation to the 25th of March in the year 5501 from Adam (= 1 B.C.), and the Resurrection to March 25th, Olympiad 202.2, year 5532 from Adam (= A.D. 31).
• Bede (673-735 CE) claims that at the time of Pope Victor [i.e. late second century] the Christians of Gaul kept their Easter always on the 8th of the Calends of April (March 25th). Bede [de Ratione Temporum cap 45 It de Aequinocto Vernali t. 2 p 232] cites the authority of Theophilus Bishop of Caesarea and the synod held under him for support – “the resurrection of Jesus should be celebrated on the 25th of March on whatever day of the week it may fall, the Lord having risen on that day.” [Cent. ii Call p. 118]
• Lactantius of Cirta in Numidia (c. 240 – 320 CE) of North Africa says “in the latter days of the Emperor Tiberius, in the consulship of Ruberius Geminus and Fufius Geminus, and on the tenth of the kalends of April [i.e. March 23rd], as I find it written, Jesus Christ was crucified by the Jews. After He had risen again on the third day [i.e. March 25].” [Of the Manner in Which the Persecutors Died chapter 2]
• Epiphanius of Salamis (d 403 CE) claims that ‘some’ Christians of his day assign the crucifixion to March 23rd.
• Panadorus of Alexandria (c 400 CE) see Annianus below
• Annianus of Alexandria (c. 412 CE) “To summarize, then, it is AM 5534, the year that inaugurates for the first time the Lord's day, the first Pascha of the Lord on the 25th of the Roman month of March, the 29th of the Egyptian month of Phamenoth; according to the divinely inspired scriptures of the Old and New Testament, it is 1 Nisan, the first-created day of the first-created month. On that day, the new creation begun in Christ ushered from death to life all those with a correct belief in him. [George Sycellus Chapter 391 (p.465 ff.)
• John Malalas (d. 578 CE) Monophysite Byzantine chronicler “on the 23rd of March, the third day of the moon, the fifth day of the week at the fifth hour of the night [11 pm], He was led before Caiphas...On the following day he was taken to Pilate...He was crucified on the fourteenth day of the moon...At that time the sun was bereft of its light and darkness covered the whole earth. [“Chronographia” PG xcvii, col. 351 in sequence]
• The Paschal Chronicle (c. 630 CE) the crucifixion occurred on March 23rd and the Resurrection on March 25th.
• Georgios Kedrenos (fl. 11th century CE) “The first day of the first month is the first day of Nisan which corresponds to the twenty fifth of March … On that same day our Saviour God after having finished his career, raised from the dead, which our ancient Fathers call the Pascha or Passage of the Lord. It is on this day that our old theologians fix the return or the second advent of this Saviour God.” Cedrenus represents Christ as having died in the nineteenth year of Tiberius, on the 23d of March, and to have risen again on the 25th. From this comes the custom, he says, of celebrating the Passover on the 25th of March. On this day the true light rose from the tomb. Though the festival of the resurrection is now on the Sunday after the full moon of the equinox, it was formerly on the 25th of March, as Cedrenus asserts.
• Michael Psellos (11th century CE) leading Byzantine philosopher claims that the Resurrection has to be dated ‘according to the evangelists’ to March 25, 31 CE (G Redl, “La Chronologie appliquée de Michel Psellos,” Byzantion 5 (1929 ) 241 – 244).
Others who are said to fall in this camp include Theodore of Gaza, It is interesting to note that while the Alexandrians could arrive at dates of March 25th for Easter because they continued to identify March 21st as the Spring Equinox, the Roman Church eventually identified March 25th as the Spring Equinox making such a date impossible. This because the Nicene Council of 325 had ruled that Easter must be observed the first Sunday that falls after the Spring Equinox. The original date of the Resurrection had now been effectively outlawed from repeating itself.
(b) those who held a March 25th Crucifixion
• Tertullian of Carthage (early third century CE) “[it was under] Tiberius Caesar, in the consulate of Rubellius Geminus and Fufius Geminus, in the month of March, at the times of the passover, on the eighth day before the calends of April [i.e. March 25th], on the first day of unleavened bread, on which they slew the lamb at even, just as had been enjoined by Moses. [Against the Jews 8]
• Hippolytus of Rome (early third century CE) “our Lord was born on Wednesday, December 25th in the forty second of the reign of Augustus and the 5500th year from Adam. He suffered in the 33rd year on Friday March 25th in the 18th year of Tiberius.” [On Daniel Book 4]
• ibid from a table used to compute the dates of Easter at the base of a statue of Hippolytus [Henri Leclercq “Hippolyte (Statue et cimetiere de saint)” in Fernand Cabrol and Henri Leclercq Dictionaire d’archaeologie chretienne et de liturgie vol 6 part 2 (Paris: Letouzey et Ane, 1925)
• De Pascha Computus (c. 243 CE) assigns the crucifixion to March 25th [Thomas J Talley The Origins of the Liturgical Year p. 90]
• Gospel of Nicodemus or Acts of Pilate (Latin apocryphal work whose material goes back to the early third century CE) “in the fifteenth year of the government of Tiberius Caesar, emperor of the Romans, and Herod being king of Galilee, in the nineteenth year of his rule, on the eighth day before the Calends of April, which is the twenty-fifth of March, in the consulship of Rufus and Rubellio, in the fourth year of the two hundred and second Olympiad, Joseph Caiaphas being high priest of the Jews. [Part I, The Acts of Pilate] Other texts of the Gospel had an earlier dating for the crucifixion]
• Julianus Hilarianus De die Paschae xv (Gallandi, viii 748)
• Martyrologium Hieronymianum
• The Chronography (c 354 AD) (Part 13: Bishops of Rome. MGH Chronica Minora I (1892), pp.73-6) “When Tiberius Caesar was reigning our Lord Jesus Christ died the two twins being consul on the eighth day before the Kalends of April [March 25th].”
• Epiphanius of Salamis (c. 375) records that Christ was born in the Julian year 45 (1 BC on our calendar), the fourth year of the 194th Olympiad, and that the passion took place in the 18th year of Tiberius on March 25, and the Resurrection on the 27th. [De Anno Natali Christi and De Anno Passionis Christi, PG xiii, cols. 902 and 978]
• Epiphanius also says that there were Christians contemporaries of his who claimed they could accurately date the crucifixion to March 25th based on the Acts of Pilate [Panarion 50:1:5].
• ibid interestingly notes that at least some of the Quartodecimians of Cappadocia said Jesus was crucified on the 8th day of the Calends of April [i.e. March 25th] [Panarion 50:1:8]
• Orosius of Bracara (d. 418) “in the year 33, the passion took place on the 8th of the Calends of April, which is March 25th. [“History Against the Pagans,” PL xxxi, book 7, col. 1059]
• Augustine of Hippo (354 – 430 CE) “Now Christ died when the Gemini were consuls, on the eighth day before the kalends of April [March 25th]. He rose the third day, as the apostles have proved by the evidence of their own senses.” [City of God Chapter 54]
• Pseudo-Chrysostom (387 CE) [Paschal Harmony ed. Bened. viii App. p 277]
• Dionysius Exiguus “[Jesus] was born on December 25 and suffered death on March 25.” [Argumentum 15. On the day of the equinox and the solstice Cyclus Pascalis in JP Migne Patrologia Latina 67:483 - 568]
This understanding also appears in the fourth century Bucherian calendar of Rome, the fifth century calendar of Pollenius Silvius from the Rhone Valley and countless others. As Georges Declercq notes (Anno Domini: the Origins of the Christian Era Turhout Brepols 2000) “in the West 25 March thenceforth became the conventional date of the crucifixion and is often marked as such in Medieval calendars.”
There is a unanimous tradition that the Passover in question fell on the earliest date possible, just after the equinox. This makes it all the more remarkable that the tradition as to the year has almost been lost. With the partial exception of Lactantius, the sources have a year that could be guessed at, either 32 or 33 A.D. But the very fact that both 32 and 33 are put forward shows that there is no tradition, and that both years are academic reconstructions. They are not very good even as reconstructions, since the Passover in both years was nowhere near these dates. There was an appropriate correspondence of dates in 34 A.D., but the day of the week does not fit. We shall therefore dismiss the year 32 A.D. and the year 33 A.D. as superficially plausible but actually impossible new guesses predicated on the assumption of a birthdate at the end of 1 B.C. and a ministry of three years. We treat the date given in the Acts of Pilate as a fusion of the 24th and 25th, both only reconstructions, and neither falling on a Friday near the Passover.
Suppose we accept Lactantius’ date of 23rd March. Although he does not specify the year, he does say it is towards the end of the reign of Tiberius, so he is definitely not thinking of 32 or 33 A.D. In the text of Malalas the context shows the date of the 3rd of Nisan to be a mistake for the 13th. Jesus’ appearance before Caiaphas is then on Wednesday night, the 13th Nisan, the 5th day of the week. Both agree with the canonical John in not making the Last Supper a Passover. Of the two, only Malalas gives a year, 32 A.D., but this can be disregarded as his own reconstruction, since the 23rd March that year was not near the Passover. The absence of a year in one source, and the wrong correspondence in the other, indicate the omission or deletion of a year thought impossible because too late. Malalas certainly, and probably Lactantius, would have known that the only year when the afternoon of the 14th Nisan fell on Friday 23rd March was 37 A.D.
The date of Friday the 23rd March in Malalas and Lactantius is the correct date by the Roman calendar, and these two are definitely the only bearers of a tradition of the date. However, they are both mistaken in saying the date was the 14th Nisan. It was the 16th Nisan. They have unthinkingly taken over the dating in John, and their evidence can be discounted in respect of the Jewish date. The only way their evidence can be accepted is if their tradition correctly says it really was the 14th or Sunday the 25th of March 37 AD. Given the widespread echoes of this date of March 25th as a seminal date in the Passion narrative (and absolutely no reference to anything related to early dates in April) the year of 37 CE has to be considered to be the correct one.
copyright 2008 Stephan Huller
copyright 2008 Stephan Huller
There is now no doubt that Sunday, March 25th was remembered as the date for the Resurrection. As we have already seen Alexandria was the ultimate ‘epicenter’ of that tradition. One would think that this date alone should convince the world that the accompanying year was 37 CE. This is after all the only year in which a Sunday, March 25th could have been the date of the Resurrection. Nevertheless as is well known science alone doesn’t convince Christian religious minds. 37 CE was a problem for the Church – for reasons we already illustrated in the book. Indeed I would go so far as to argue that the Catholic New Testament canon was deliberately established to obscure the true date of the Passion.
In my mind it is not without purpose that Irenaeus puts forward the seemingly laughable claim that Jesus was in his forty ninth year when crucified. According to my way of thinking this is a deliberate obscuring of the original understanding that the Passion occurred ‘in a forty ninth year’ – i.e. the year before a Jubilee. If we look carefully the forty ninth year plays a central role in Alexandrian reflection on the dating of the death of Jesus. Yet in order to get there we have to pay careful attention to Irenaeus’ disinformation campaign against the tradition.
In a famous section from his Against Heresies, he accuses the heretics of falsely putting forward that Jesus preached only for one year. The Gospel of John he introduces proves that Jesus was ‘almost fifty.’ We can be sure that Jesus’ forty ninth year was a deliberate spin on the Alexandrian communities insistence that Jesus was crucified in a forty ninth year. For if we look closely Irenaeus attacks their Markan tradition on the Jubilee in the same breath as he invents a forty nine year old Jesus.
The heretical belief that Jesus only took part in the forty ninth year while the Jubilee was reserved for ‘Christ’ seemed to Irenaeus to subordinate the man from Nazareth. As a result the Roman Church Father went out of his way to re-engineer the gospel. Not only do we see the whole concept of ‘forty ninth years’ and ‘Jubilees’ wiped clean from the Catholic tradition, so too does a ‘one year’ ministry of Jesus (through the development of the Gospel of John).
Of course once Irenaeus started fiddling around with dates of the gospel it is not at all surprising that the subsequent Catholic tradition looses touch with the actual year of Jesus’ ministry. The problem of course becomes quite simple – you can’t have a Resurrection on Sunday, March 25th in any year around the time of Jesus’ thirtieth birthday except 37 CE. Nevertheless ‘the gospels’ now speak of a beginning of Jesus’ ministry around 30 CE. So it is that none of the dates usually bandied about to explain when the Passion of Christ occurred make any sense, and most scholars avoid the whole science of lunar months and instead give any number of years which can’t possibly work.
Indeed most academics typically dismiss the year 37 CE as a potential candidate because, they say, the Jewish historian Josephus ‘makes it clear’ that Pilate had already been dismissed from his post in 36 CE. Yet these readings of Josephus are utterly superficial. Daniel Schwartz, the author of the only other book ever published on the subject of Agrippa agrees with us here. He emphatically argues that a careful reading of Josephus makes clear that in fact Pilate was sent back to Rome to answer for his mistreatment of Samaritan messianists in 37 CE. As we demonstrate elsewhere any other reading is simply ridiculous.
So it is that once we acknowledge that Pilate was procurator of Judea right up until the Samaritan Passover of 37 CE and relieved of his post by Vitellius while the eight day Jewish festival was still going on, we can now examine the hitherto unexplored question as to whether the Passion might have occurred in that same year. Immediately an intriguing possibility suddenly becomes manifest. Could Pilate’s brutal assault against the Samaritan messianic gathering which Josephus tells us occurred in that same year have been one and the same with the gospel narrative’s description of the arrest of Jesus? As we demonstrate elsewhere at least one ancient Samaritan Christian seems to think so.
It is in fact an undeniable fact that at least some ancient Christian traditions believed that it was on account of his mistreatment of Christ and the disciples which led to Pilate’s recall to Rome. In other words, texts like the Acts of Pilate come from a tradition which connects the events described in Josephus with the Passion. We can only imagine what was in the original text of what was claimed to be Pilate’s original explanation of his actions which the anti-Christian Emperor Maximin used to disprove the gospels.
All of these points will likely never be settled to anyone’s satisfaction. Yet they necessarily lead us back to the year 37 CE as the only possible date available for the Passion. Of course, that it has never even been considered by theologians as the central date in world history is hardly as problematic as it seems at first. For them the world doesn’t have to make sense. Indeed the more it seems to contradict logic, science and reason, the happier they inevitably are.
The truth however is that placing Christ’s resurrection in 37 CE would only serve to prove the greatness of their God. This given the fact that an immediate recall of Pilate (and Herod too for that matter) would only have ‘proved’ to contemporaries that God did indeed punish those who harmed his beloved ‘Christ.’ Having the ‘wicked’ Emperor Tiberius also meet his end in the lead up to this event didn’t hurt either, as we have already seen.
So what did Irenaeus have against 37 CE? The question could easily be turned around and posed in a different way – why did the Alexandrians continue to venerate the date? The answer in either case is that it is clearly also the year that Marcus Agrippa claimed to be Resurrected in Jerusalem.
The point here is that the underlying knowledge shared by both Irenaeus and his enemies in Alexandria was the same. This is why the information is now only preserved in a fragmentary form scattered around the pages of the Church Fathers. ‘Sunday’ + ‘March 25th’ + “forty ninth year’ + ’37 CE’ = ‘another Christ’ + ‘coronated’ + ‘Jubilee’ + ‘Alexandria’ = ‘Marcus Agrippa.’ It really is that simple.
Indeed I will argue that the final proof for this assertion is to be found preserved in the writings of an eight century Byzantine scholar named George Syncellus who thankfully preserved the writings of two ancient Alexandrian monks. Many scholars who have heard a little about the text will likely shake their heads about now. ‘George Syncellus’ Chronology doesn’t put Jesus’ crucifixion in 37 CE!’ they will answer. ‘In fact it is strangely placed in 42 CE, the second year of the Emperor Claudius.’
All of this may be true but I promise the reader that as we remove the various layers of this text it will be immediately apparent what has happened. Nevertheless for the moment let us leave this as it may be for the moment and ask even with all of this incorrect information coming from Alexandria when does this same ancient Church understand that its ‘St. Mark’ first appeared in the city? The current Pope makes that clear in his Evangelist Mark when he writes that while ‘it is difficult to determine the exact dates for the journeys of the apostles [they are] usually calculated in relation to [other] events, and the time of the arrival of St. Mark was no exception … St. Mark came to Alexandria in 43 AD.” [page 42] In other words now as silly as might seem to have Jesus’ crucifixion end up being in 42 CE, it is uncanny the way the ‘follow up’ appearance of Mark nevertheless immediately comes right after it.
So how did the official tradition get the dates so wrong? Let us back to the beginning again. As Adler notes ‘since Clement, Christian chronographers in Alexandria had experimented with [dating the Crucifixion from] the era from Creation.’ Yet over two hundred years lay between Annanius of Alexandria, George Syncellus’ main source for his 42 CE and Clement. In that time the Catholic innovations of Irenaeus necessarily forced changes in the outer appearance of Alexandrian orthodoxy.
Nowhere is this clearer than in Clement’s repeated insistence that Jesus was thirty at the time of the crucifixion. This clearly explains where all these extra years develop by the time of Annanius who is repeatedly congratulated by the Byzantine George Syncellus for abandoning much of the heresy native to the city.
Annanius still dates Jesus’ birth to 7 CE. With the original Alexandrian claims for Jesus only reaching his thirtieth year the date for the Passion remains at 37 CE (7 + 30 = 37 CE). However it is apparent that Annanius finally came around to accepting the claims of the Gospel of John with regards to multiple years for Jesus’ ministry. As such almost all scholarly readings of ‘the gospels’ note that there are five Passovers demonstrated to have occurred during Jesus ministry. Annanius’ new date of 42 CE would seem to follow from the Catholic augmentation.
So it is now apparent to get out from under Annanius’ influence if we wish to get at the original Alexandrian understanding. Scholars like Adler assist us in this regard by constantly emphasizing that Annanius was only a later redactor of an original work by another Alexandrian monk named Panodorus whose conclusions Syncellus vehemently opposed. Panodorus likely lived slightly before Annanius. He certainly acknowledged March 25th as the date of the Crucifixion however he maintained the original Alexandrian interest in the first of Thouth among other things (the date I suggest Agrippa was enthroned during the Jubilee).
Annanius undoubtedly retained most of his predecessor’s original work but sought to ‘correct’ its indebtedness to pagan and ‘heretical’ teachings. The thing which bothered Syncellus the most about Panodorus original calculations was that it “contained not only interest in astronomy but tables of lunar and solar motion.” As we shall demonstrate shortly this deliberate emphasis on the nineteen year metonic cycle helps solidify the 37 CE date once and for all.
What Annanius should be credited with is perfectly reconciling the 254 day lunar calendar of the Hebrews with the traditional 360 solar calendar of Egypt. As George Syncellus (the Byzantine scholar who preserved most of the information about these figures) notes “it should be recognized that the exposition of Annanius is more concise and more accurate and in line with the apostolic and patristic tradition; in it he assigns the divine incarnation to the end of the 5,500 year and the beginning of the year 5501 and the holy luminescent day of the Resurrection in the 25th of the Roman month March, the 29th of the Egyptian month of Phamenoth which in the 532-year Paschal tables compiled by him, he also shows with the aid of learned investigations was the first formed day” (Sync. 35. 20 - 27)”
We should see above all else that this new system devised by Annanius was an innovation. All that Panodorus established originally was the standard nineteen year metonic cycle dating back from 284 CE – the so-called Era of Martyrs - which has become the standard Alexandrian chronological reference point. Panadorus seemed to have fixed that date in relation to a March 25th Resurrection and furthermore Creation on 1 Thouth. Annanius developed the system one step further and brought March 25th into harmony with all important Christian dates (Creation, Incarnation and Resurrection) in relation to his cycle of 532 years.
Yet let’s step back from Annanius’ innovation. The earliest Alexandrians certainly knew only the nineteen year cycle used by Panodorus. This system was certainly known also to Jews and Samaritans living in the city from before the time of Christ. Together they knew that every nineteen years the dating of Passover necessarily repeats almost down to the day. The most holy year in the Christian calendar was the year in which the Passion fell. The next most significant was the Era of Martyrs.
It cannot be seen as coincidence when we discover that the year 37 CE falls within the nineteen year cycle established by the Coptic ‘anchor’ of 284. 37 + (19 x 13) = 284 CE. It has to be seen as the germ from which Annanius’ grandiose claims about the Creation being established on March 25th grew out of. 37 CE is the only year anywhere near the tradition dates of Jesus’ ministry that falls within the metonic cycle calculated from 284 CE. As such we must assume that the tradition from which Panodorus drew his information necessarily acknowledged not only March 25th as the date of the Passion but certainly 37 CE as its proper year.
This is interestingly how Panodorus must have reconciled his system. Diocletian ascended to the throne around August 29th, 284 CE. This date must have been very close if not falling exactly upon 1 Thouth, the tradition ‘first day’ of the Egyptian calendar (and still the first day of Creation according to Panodorus). Just a few months earlier in the same year the Church just celebrated its thirteenth repetition of the original March 25th, 37 CE date of Easter. Thirteen has always been an unlucky number in Christianity. The persecutions which followed Diocletian’s ascension must only have seemed like heavenly confirmation of that belief.
Why Ethiopia's Millennium is seven years late
By Elizabeth Blunt
BBC WORLD SERVICE
People in Ethiopia are preparing to celebrate the New Year on 12 September and for them, it will be very special - the start of the year 2000 and the beginning of millennium celebrations.
But the reason why they are celebrating more than seven years after the rest of the world is rooted in Ethiopian history and in the beliefs of its own Christian Orthodox Church.
Educated Ethiopians live comfortably in two calendars.
It is still 1999 here and the month is Pagume when they speak Amharic - September 2007 when they speak English.
The only thing that ever seems to faze them is the complication caused by the leap years in the two calendars being out of sync.
But even if they are quite at home with the Western calendar, Ethiopians show no sign of wanting to abandon their own.
It is part of their national identity, not to mention allowing their tourist industry to boast that they can offer visitors 13 months of sunshine.
The short 13th month is just one of the tell-tale signs that Ethiopians took their calendar from ancient Egypt.
Another is the date of New Year, originally linked to the annual flood which brought new life to the Nile Valley.
But none of this explains why the millennium is seven years late; why Ethiopians think that it is 2000 and not 2007 years since the birth of Christ.
Ahmed Zakaria, professor of history at Addis Ababa University says the reason is that the Roman Church amended their calculation in 500 AD - adjusting it by seven or eight years.
"So we are seven or eight years later than the Roman calculation, so that's the difference that came in."
The recalculation of the birth of Christ was just the first of a number of changes in the rest of the world which the Ethiopian church ignored.
It is partly because the country was so remote and isolated, but also, says the current patriarch, Abuna Paulos I, because Ethiopian Christians are intensely conservative.
"People are not inclined for any reformations, especially when it comes to religion.
"They are very much loyal - to change one sentence is a betrayal as far as they are concerned.
"So because of this, they have been isolated. They have been loyal to their faith and they have maintained their own traditions."
And so here in Ethiopia it is still 1999, we're all seven years younger, and on the 12 September, the first of Meskeram, we'll finally join the rest of the world.
The Traditional Dates of the Samaritan Jubilee Years according to the Original Text of Abul-Fatah
By Dr. Ruairidh Bóid
There are five known Samaritan calculations of the relation between Years of Entry, Years of Creation, and Years of the Fanûta, on one hand, and absolute historical time, on the other. They can be divided into one original and four modifications.
The first system of calculation, which will be shown to be the original, is given by Abu ’l-Fatḥ bin Abi ’l-Ḥasan Dinfi of Damascus. (A transcription suitable for use in non-technical publications would be Abul-Fataḥ. I will use this for convenience of citation in such publications).
The second calculation, found in the Hebrew pamphlet written in 1346 currently attached to the Tulîda, depends on a misinterpretation of what the Tulîda says about Alexander, with consequent guessing. The author did not have the information from a second source used by AF. Nine years are added to the years of Creation.
The third calculation is the result of the misreading of the layout of calculations for shemittot and Jubilees combined with a misunderstanding of the argument in the above-mentioned attachment to the Tulîda. Six years have been added to all years of Creation. Misreading of AF would have confirmed the acceptance of the original error of nine years. Total deviation is 9 + 6 = 15 years.
The fourth calculation is an erroneous set of figures going back to arbitrary procedure in the listing of the High Priests in the Comprehensive History by Khaḍir bin Isḥâq or Finaas ban Yeṣaaq. This was completed by the author in 1875, and issued with an appendix ten years later. An early version must have been available in 1853. All years of Creation are lowered, due to following the extant defective mss. of the Tulîda.
The fifth is the current system in Samaritan publications, which differs from Abul-Fataḥ by adding ten years to all years of Creation. This is a modification of the original aberration of 9 years in the Hebrew appendix to the Tûlîda. It rejects the error of a waiting period between the crossing of the Jordan and the start of counting of shemittot and Jubilees. It also rejects the innovation in calculation system no. 3 of an omission of part of the list of High Priests.
We start with the system or set of calculations currently in use. For convenience, we start with 2008-2009 AD. This is Year 3647 of Entry. This means 3,646 years passed from Creation to the start of the Samaritan year starting in March 2008. This means the Samaritan year corresponding to 1-2 A.D. started 3,646 less 2,007 = 1,639 years from Entry, and 1 AD is Year 1640 of Entry. All Samaritan documents agree that there are 2,794 years exactly from Creation to Entry. (This means Year 1 of Entry is Year 2795 of Creation, since Creation was in the first Year of Creation, starting on 1/1/1). This makes the start of 1-2 AD 1639 + 2794 years from Creation = 4,433 years from Creation, and makes 1-2 AD. Year 4434 of Creation. All Samaritan documents agree that the Time of Favour (in Aramaic Ruuta) lasted for 260 years. This was followed by the present age, the time of turning away [of the face of God], in Aramaic Fanûta. (Some mss. confuse the length of the Ruuta with the length of the period up till the last legitimate King, Samson, who died a few years before the end of the Ruuta, but the figure 260 for the Ruuta never changes). In Jewish terminology the death of Samson marks the end of the period of the Judges. Note the ominous tone of the last verse of the Book of Judges. This dating makes the start of the Samaritan year corresponding to 1-2 AD 1639 less 260 = 1,379 years from the start of the Fanûta. Correspondingly, the Samaritan year corresponding to 1 BC – 1 AD. started 4,432 years from Creation and 1,638 years from Entry and 1,378 years from the start of the Fanûta.
The absolute date of the Hijrah is 16/7/622 A.D. The year of the Samaritan calendar in which the Hijrah happened is the one starting in March 622 AD. This year started 1,639 + 621 years = 2,260 years from Entry. This is 4,433 + 621 years from Creation = 5,054 years from Creation. This would be 1,379 + 621 = exactly 2,000 years from the start of Fanuta. So Year 1 of the Islamic Era corresponds to Years 5057-5058 of Creation, Years 2263-2264 of Entry, and Years 2003-2004 of Fanuta, starting after the lapse of about four months within this year.
Alexander died in June 323 BC. If the Samaritan year corresponding to 1 BC - 1 AD started 1,638 years from Entry and 4,432 years from Creation, then the year 323-322 BC started 1,638 take away 322 = 1,316 years from Entry and 4,432 less 322 = 4,110 years from Creation. This makes 1,316 take away 260 = 1,056 years from the start of the Fanuta.
Now we compare the synchronisations given by Abul-Fataḥ, writing in 1355 AD. [The references are to the page and line nos. of the edition by Eduardus Vilmar, Gotha, 1865. This is the only edition ever published]. At 178:9-12 he gives the correspondence of years of Creation with 756 AH [1355 AD], the year of finishing the book. This was meant to be the key to the chronology used throughout the book. At this point his original date has been replaced. The way it was done was so stupid there is no doubt. Someone added 756 to 5047 making 5803, that is, added the no. of Islamic years to the no. of absolute or solar years. Only ms. C has this reading, the original corruption. (The old part of ms. S finishes before the passages about the date of Muhammad. No St. Petersburg fragment has the section with the fourth synchronisation). This change must be earlier than the date of ms. C , since this scribe would not have felt free to innovate. It is shown below that a secondary corruption derived from this can be dated to 1518, so the original mistake can be pushed back to 1500. Then the date was corrupted further. In ms. D , this error has been changed to the erroneous figure of the year 5945 AM, with the addition of another 141 years. My guess is that someone saw that 5,803 years from Creation was not the date of composition, and thought it must be the date of copying. If it had been wrongly thought that the figure 5047 given by AF was meant to synchronise with the Hijrah, the year starting 5,803 years from Creation would have been thought to have been 756 (5,803 – 5,047) solar years from the Hijrah, what we would call 1378 AD. This would have been thought to be only 23 years from the composition of the book. Corruption so early would have been thought impossible, so it could have been assumed the date was mant to be the date of writing out an authoritative ms., perhaps by AF himself. The scribe would then have felt free to change the date to the current one, which would have been the year starting 5,803 + 141 = the year 5945 AM = 897 years (5944 - 5047) after 621 AD = 1518 AD. This is only 27 years before the copying of ms. D. This secondary corruption is in all later mss. (There is another sign of very early corruption and loss of tradition. In all mss. the Samaritan representative before Muḥammad is called Ṣarmaṣa. Both AF and the Continuation have this form. St. Petersburg fragments K and P of AF have the same. This is not a Hebrew or Aramaic name. Any familiarity with Samaritan mss., even the most superficial, will tell you that there hs been a corruption at a stage when the name was written in Hebrew letters, and that it ought to be Yarmayya [= Masoretic Yirmeya], which is a Hebrew name. Something is wrong if a name as important as this can be forgotten).
The original main synchronisation being lost, we have to rely on inference from the two secondary statements.
AF 84:1-5. From Creation till the end of the days of Azqayya the High Priest is said to be 4,100 years. From the start of the Fanuta till this date is said to be 1,046 years. This would make the time since Entry 1306 years. These dates assume a period of 3,054 years from Creation to the start of the Fanuta, which is correct, as was shown above. His officiate is said to have lasted 21 years. In his days came Alexander the Macedonian. The death of Alexander is mentioned at 92:9-11. Descriptive but not narrative material about Azqayya then continues till the mention of his death at 93:14-15. It says at 92:10-11 that when Azqayya heard of Alexander’s death he worried about the fate of the Samaritans under the next ruler. The length of time from the death of Alexander till the death of Azqayya is not directly stated. As it is implied that he never knew the policy of the next ruler, it could not have been long. Alexander died on 11/6/323 BC, about three months from the start of the Samaritan year in March. AF always works in whole elapsed years unless there is some special reason otherwise. When he says Azqayya died 4100 years from Creation, he means he died in the year 4101 AM, as did Alexander. [AM = Anno Mundi]. The start of the Samaritan year starting in March 1 B.C. will be 4100 + 322 = 4,422 years from Creation. The year starting in late March 1 AD will then be 4424 AM, starting 4,423 years from Creation, or 1630 of Entry, starting 1,629 years from Entry.
The second synchronisation by AF needs an appreciation of the context and the terminology if it is to be understood properly. This date is important to AF. He gives it four times over. At AF 172:16-18 it is said that from the start of the Fanûta till the coming of Muḥammad is 1,993 years, and from Creation 5,047 years. This is said to have been at the end of the officiate of Elaazar, which lasted 25 years. This would be 2,253 years from Entry. At 176:12 the “appearance” of Muḥammad is said to have been 1,993 years from the start of the Fanuta. At 175: 13 the appearance of Muḥammad is said to have been 5,047 years from Creation. At 178:9 the date for the coming of Muḥammad is given again. (In the extant mss., this is said to have been in the 12th year of the officiate of Elaazar, conradicting what was said at 172 16-18. Whoever first witlessly changed the date of composition made this change as well, according to some theory). If AF is being consistent with his use of this expression in other places in the book, this “coming” of Muḥammad would have to be his arrival in Palestine. In the context, this can only mean the first Islamic conquests in Palestine. Furthermore, after the second mention of the date of the coming of Muḥammad at 178:9-12, some of the mss. have an account of the effect of the Islamic invasion of Palestine. [A word of explanation. Although Islamic historians do not recognise campaigns by Muḥammad into Syria, the Christian historians unanimously do. For the present purpose it does not matter who is right. The point is that AF recognises such campaigns]. This interpretation is confirmed by the way Muḥammad is first mentioned, starting at 172:15. The social collapse of the last years of Byzantine rule has just been described. The tyranny and oppression of the Byzantine administration was ghastly. Immediately afterwards comes the dating of the “coming”of Muḥammad, which would have ended the reign of terror. Then comes the ending of the original book, with an emphatic statement of Muhammad’s benevolence to “all the Torahs” [kull ash-Sharâ’i‘] meaning all adherents of a revealed book, not just Samaritans but Christians and Jews as well.
AF followed an existing practice in giving the date mentioned for the arrival of the Islamic forces in Palestine and south-west Syria. At the end of the original book by AF there is an attachment in some of the mss. This is a history of the next 300 years, finished soon after the last event mentioned, which means several centuries before AF. At the start of this attachment is another version of the narrative of the granting by Muḥammad of a guarantee of protection. Immediately after this, there is the same dating of 5,047 years since Creation as originally given by AF, but instead of saying till the coming or appearance of Muḥammad, it says “till the rule of Ishmael”. This does not mean the Islamic forces had stable control of the whole of Palestine this early. The meaning is to be turned round. It means control by Byzantium over the country had ended. Complete stable control had become inevitable. The Byzantine Era was over.
The figures given by AF for the death of Alexander and the coming or appearance of Muḥammad are 947 years apart. The timespan from June 323 to July 622 AD, the date of the Hijrah, is 944 years. The coming of Muḥammad or the start of the rule of Ishmael is thus in the year starting in March 625 AD. If the narrative by AF and the Continuation are both read carefully, it will be seen that the compact with the people of Palestine was made by Muḥammad after the Hijrah and before the invasion of Palestine. This is historically right. Islamic policy on such matters was worked out in Yathrib immediately after the Hijrah. It will also be seen that the coming or appearance of Muḥammad is soon after the making of the compact. The dating of 625 AD is confirmed, along with the synchronisation with the year starting 5,047 years from Creation.
AF had a reason for saying “the coming of Muḥammad” or “the appearance of Muḥammad” instead of “the rule of Ishmael”. The arrangement of the material shows that Muḥammad was seen as the saviour of the Samaritans, and all Palestinians, from Byzantium. Only a messianic figure would be said to have “appeared”. The year starting 5,047 years from Creation was the year starting 2253 years from Creation, as AF tells us more than once. This is the year 5048 AM or 2254 of Entry, which is a forty-ninth year, the year before a Jubilee Year. It is highly remarkable that memory of this figure should have got lost as early as 1500 AD, only a hundred and fifty years from the book’s composition.
Here then are the conclusions from the two remaing synchronisations. Abul-Fataḥ synchronised March 323 BC with the passage of 4,100 years from Creation and the passage of 4,100 take away 2,794 = 1,306 years from Entry. He synchronised the year starting in March 625 AD with the year starting 5,047 years from Creation. The year starting in March 1 AD must be 4,100 + 323 = 4,423 years from Creation and 1,306 + 323 = 1,629 years from Entry. March 38 AD, the end of the year starting in March 37 AD, must be 4423 + 37 = 4,460 years from Creation and 1,629 + 37 = 1,666 years from Entry. So in March 37 AD a forty-ninth year starts and in March 38 AD a Jubilee Year starts.
We are left with a disagreement of exactly ten years between the modern reckoning and Abul-Fataḥ. Let us work backwards from the date given by Abul-Fataḥ. The year starting March 1 AD is 1,629 years from Entry and 4,423 years from Entry. This is 1,629 take away 260 = 1,369 years from the start of the Fanûta. The year starting March 622 AD starts 1369 + 621 = 1,990 years from the start of the Fanûta. It would have been tempting to scratch round to try to find another ten years somewhere before the Hijrah. The new dating makes the start of the year starting in March 621 AD, during which the Hijrah occurred about four months into the year, exactly 2000 years since the start of the Fanuta. The words of Abul-Fataḥ about the synchronisation can be re-read if you are determined enough and insensitive enough. What I mean is that if no connection is made between what is said at 84:1-5 and 92:9-11, and if the implication that Azqayya died before knowing what the policy of Alexander’s successor would be is ignored, the words at 84:1-5 could be taken to refer to the date of Alexander’s conquest of Palestine. This gives another nine years. Another year could be found by taking the words “the coming of Alexander” completely literally, as if meaning his fist arrival in Syria-Palestine. If the reader looks these passages up, it will be clear how the deliberate re-reading was done, without any change to the figures given by the author. This re-reading would make all Seleucid Era dates ten years later in relation to Samaritan dates. With that done, the re-dating of the Hijrah in relation to years of Entry and Creation would have followed automatically. The question is, when was this addition of ten years done? Here are some soundings. At the end the solution will stand out by itself.
First Set of Examples. One item.
As said, a Hebrew pamphlet stands in the mss. before the text of the much older Aramaic Tulîda. The author writes in the third month of the Islamic year 747 corresponding to the fourth month, which is July, of the civil year. [This would be 1346 AD = 1379 of the civil era]. This is said to correspond to 5778 AM = 714 Persian [Yezdegerd Era, starting in 632 AD]. This would make 1 AD = 5778 – 1345 = 4433. This is 9 years too late in comparison with the chronology of AF. This is said to be 2984 years since starting the observing of shemittot. That means from Entry. Years of the tables or almanac will be six years less, because these are listed from the seventh year of Entry. The period of counting of shemittot and Jubilees starts from the first day of the first month of the first year. Testing. 5778 AM starts 5,777 years from Creation. 5777 – 2984 = 2,793. The difference should be 2,794. If 5778 AM really is meant, and not 5778 years from creation, then either he means this is Year 2984 of Entry [not the year starting 2984 years from Entry], or his arithmetic is out by one year. The first explanation, careless expression, is more likely. This would make 1 AD = 2984 – 1345 = year 1639 of Entry, nine years too late. In a paragraph considered by Florentin to be an interpolation, and with good reason, there is a faulty calculation of the number of Jubilees elapsed. This can be disregarded here.
Now we have to account for the anomalous additional nine years in the number of years of Creation in relation to Abul-Fataḥ. The Tulîda has not got the datum that the death of Alexander was just before the death of the High Priest Azqayya and can therefore be synchronised with the year starting 4100 years from Creation, that is, 4101 AM. AF got that from another source. If you read the Tûlîda on its own, all you have is that Alexander came in the time of Azqayya. You can work out the date of death of Azqayya by adding figures. It would be natural, though wrong, to think that Azqayya died immediately after the conquest of Palestine by Alexander, nine years before his death. This assumption has then been regarded as true forever afterwards. These calculations by one person, which are not part of the Tulîda, have been treated as if having the authority of the Tulîda. The author calls his pamphlet a mashni, meaning appendix.Later readers have regarded it as the preface to the Tûlîda. The venerability of the content of correct traditional information attached to the traditional figures for the position of the Mountain, as well as the venerability of the Tulîda, have been attached to the bad guess about dating by one person with inadequate data.
In modern times the arithmetical error of one year in calculating the year of Entry or the bad expression in this appendix has been one of the causes of an error of an additional year in the synchronisation. All years of Entry are now ten years too late, and the calculation of Years of Creation has followed automatically.
Second Set of Examples.
(a) Colophon of ms. Manchester IX part 2, Asâṭîr. The scribe is the renowned Musallam bin Marjân Dinfi. Ṣafar 1115 AH [Anno Hegirae] (which started in mid June 1703) = June 2016 Greek [June 1703 AD] = 6141 AM = 3441 Entry. The scribe had a special reason for giving these correspondences so fully. Calculating from the figure for Alexander, 1703 AD = 323 BC till 1703 = 323 + 1,702 = 2,025 years. If March 323 BC is 1306 years from Entry, then 1703 will be 1,306 + 2,025 (323 + 1,702)= 3,331 years from Entry or Year 3332 of Entry, the forty-ninth year before the Jubilee Year of 3333 of Entry. (Checking. If 1703 = year 3332 of Entry, then 1 AD is 3332 – 1702 = Year 1630 of Entry, which is right). Now we see a contradiction. What Musallam gives as dates in his colophon seems at first to have no connection with the Jubilee. Year 3441 of Entry was not a Jubilee or near one. This also makes Entry only 2700 years after Creation! The date for years of Creation is unexpected as well. This would mean 1 AD = 6141 take away 1702 = 4439 AM, that is, the year starting 4438 years after Creation. This is 15 years too late. These figures must be explained somehow. We start with the assumption that although the illustrious scholar Musallam could make a clerical error, he would not be wrong on a point of fact. I have had a look at a photograph of the page. The dates are written in Hebrew letters. For 3441 he has written gimel then the word thousand (alf) in full and then the letters qof shin mem alef. The sequence qof shin is anomalous. For 300 shin would be written and for 400 tav. The words of the two lines with the two dates are exactly underneath each other from start to finish. The letters qof shin mem alef are written exactly under the letters qof mem alef of the date from Creation. The shin was written along with the qof from above. As said, the sequence qof shin is impossible, so shin must be meant. The mem was copied. It might be thought that he forgot to change the alef to zayin, but this is not a mistake, as will be seen from the next example. A difference of 2,800 and not 2,794 years from Creation till Entry really is intended. If Year 3341 of Entry is 1703 AD, then 1 AD is 3341 less 1702 = 1639 of Entry. The figure for years of Entry is 9 years too high, and the figure for years of Creation is 9 + 6 years too high. The reason for the addition of 9 years will be explained at the end of this set of examples. The origin of the addition of 6 years to years of Creation is this. Tables of the Ishban Qashṭa are converted to tables of years of Creation by adding 2,800 (2,794 + 6) and converted to tables of years of Entry by adding 6. If you start by looking at what you think is the current year of Entry in tables of Ishban Qashṭa with their correspondences to years of Creation, and if it is thought that the I.Q. column is a Year of Entry column, it will seem that the rule is that the difference between years of Creation and years of Entry ought to be 2,800 years. If this supposed rule is then used in conversions, and if years of Entry are the base, all years of Creation will come out 6 years more than they ought to be. The consequence will be that the sting point of Years of Entry will be 2,800 instead of 2,794 years from Creation. As to the question of how someone could think this was right, the answer is simple. The appendix standing before the Tulîda has been misread at 4a:36-39 and then 3b:10. [Florentin’s numbering. Neubauer p. 428 translation and p. 394 text and p. 428 translation; p. 391 text and p. 425 translation]. Somehow it has been thought that words that mean seven years on the western side of the Jordan, mean the eastern side of the Jordan. (In the language of the Torah, the expression “The Trans-Jordan” or “the other side of the Jordan” means the other side from the reference point of the situation of the utterance. If what is meant is not clear from the context, then “on the east” or “on the west” is added. At 4a:36-39 it says there was a delay of six years “while the Israelites were across the Jordan on the west” before doing the astronomical observations and calculations needed for the the calculation of the tables or almanac [now called the Ishban Qashṭa in Aramaic, meaning the correct reckoning]. It says elsewhere, not here, that the seventh year, when the observations were made, was not year one of shemittot but year seven. Here it says that to convert years of the almanac to years of Entry you add six. It is said at 3b:10 that the knowledge of astronomy needed for this purpose was revealed in the year 2794 of Creation. Unbelievable as it might seem, someone has read the first passage as meaning there was a delay of six years before crossing the Jordan. The implication would be that Entry was at the of 2,800 years, not 2,790. For a long while I looked for some other explanation, because it was hard to suppose anyone could have been so insensitive to the text. There plainly is the word “westwards” [yamma]. Then I saw that Adolf Neubauer had made exactly this mistake in his translation into French. As for what he had done with the word “westwards”, he had simply declined to take notice of it. I had already seen that Neubauer’s translation is inaccurate in many places, where the syntax of the Hebrew had been too hard for him. Here it was both syntax and vocabulary. [There is a bad misprint in Neubauer’s Hebrew text, which has “interior” or “wilderness” instead of “Jordan”. The French translation, bad as it is, depends on the correct Hebrew text]. (Florentin gets the syntax right, as would be expected, and understands from the context that the western side of the Jordan must be meant. He still does not see the relevance of the word “westwards”, so he explains it as meaning the Israelites were concentrated on the westward side of what we call the Cis-Jordan, the Mediterranean side, but could not enter the eastern part of the western side). If Neubauer could make this mistake, so could some else. So here is the explanation of the wrong dating of years of Entry by 6 years: misreading of the appendix to the Tûlîda and misinterpretation of the layout of the Ishban Qashṭa tables. The year of Entry will already be 9 years too much for the reason explained, so the years of Creation will be 15 (9+6) years too much. So Musallam uses one table that makes the year of writing 3332 of Entry, the year before a Jubilee, and another that makes it 3341 of Entry, nine years later, eight years after the Jubilee. No-one has noticed what is wrong. If the great Musallam could pile up one mistake (the nine years) on another (the six years) and then not think to divide the supposed year of Entry by 49 to see if it worked, anyone could get their sums wrong and get confused. They did. Consistently, for another 250 years in respect of the six years and to this very day in respect of the nine, which 250 years later became ten.
(b) Manchester XXII. Astronomical calendar, written by Marjân bin Ibrâhîm, Musallam bin Marjân, and ‘Abdullâh bin Yûsuf. The ms. was completed on the 9th of Dhul-Ḥijja 1124 which is the 25th Dec. of the Greek year 2025 [1712 AD] which is said to be in the tenth month of a Jubilee Year. What is meant is that this is the year 3333. If 1712 = 3333 of Entry, then 1 AD = 3333 – 1711 = 1622 of Entry. This is 8 years too low. Eight years have been deducted to try to correct the error in the second set of tables used by Musallam in example (a) but they have been deducted from a figure that was accurate, from the first set of tables used by Musallam! It should have been 9 years that was deducted, but it has not been realised that the year is meant to be the year before the Jubilee, not the Jubilee. Confusion is complete.
(c) Colophon of ms. Manchester 171, Kitâb aṭ-Ṭubâkh, written by Marjân bin As‘ad Dinfi. Colophon. Finished on the 8th of the 7th of 3521 of Entry which is in Dhul-Ḥijja 1300 AH [which started on the 4th October 1883 not 1882 as in the catalogue] and is in 6321 AM. This would make 1 AD = 6321 take away 1882 = 4439 AM, that is, the year starting 4,438 years from Creation. This figure is too high by 15 years, i.e. the corresponding figure for civil years will be too low by 15 years. If 1883 is Year 3521 of Entry, then 1 AD = 3521 less 1882 = 1639 of Entry. This is 9 years too high. The calculation derives from AF, read as described above, and under the influence of the ms. written by Musallam. The usual 6 years have been added to make Entry 2,800 years from Creation. Continuity of speculation can be assumed. The first part of the ms. described above is the Kitâb aṭ-Ṭubâkh, written by four members of the Dinfi family, including Musallam, between 1692 and 1711. The textform of this ms. of the Ṭubâkh is closely related to the other ms. The calculation at the end of Manchester IX part 2 could not have been unknown. The ms. Manchester IX is carefully and elaborately written in both parts. The text of the Ṭubâkh (part 1 of the ms.) has been copied from one ms. with collation against at least one other ms. and consequent improvements. There is only one extant older ms. of the Ṭubâkh. The text of the Asâṭîr is superior to most mss. of this book. The ms. has been intended as a model exemplar.
The solution to all these additions of nine years in (a) (b) (c) (d), which make the corresponding absolute years earlier, is copying of the assumption by the author of the appendix to the Tûlîda, who had incomplete data; combined with misunderstanding of what AF meant by his synchronisation of the year starting 4100 years from Creation with Alexander. As said, if only 84:1-5 is read, without 92:9-11, the synchronisation can be thought to be not with Alexander’s death, but with his “coming”, which is taken to be his conquest of Palestine nine years beforehand.
Third Set of Examples. Surprising as it might be, in the mid 19th c. calculations start to be made from the Tûlîda without realising that all the extant mss. are defective. Apparently no-one thought to correct the defect by looking at the High Priests listed by AF from an undamaged list before about 1950. The same defect in Chronicle Adler had already been noticed by the editor, but he did not realise it had been taken over from the extant defective text of the Tûlîda. (He did not know the chronicle he was editing was a condensation of the book by Khaḍir either).
(a) The early mss. of the history by Abul-Fataḥ preserve his original dating of Muḥammad. Ms. S p. 310 has a marginal note in modern handwriting that would fit the late 19th c. saying the correct figure for years from Fanuta to Muḥammad ought to be 1884 instead of the figure of 1993 in the text. This makes the Hijrah too early by 109 years.
(b) Ms. A (1857) of Abul-Fataḥ gives the original date, and in the body of the text, not in the margin, an alternative of 4896 years from Creation to Muḥammad (instead of 5047). This makes the Hijrah too early by 5047 – 4896 = 151 years. All mss. of Abul-Fatah after this date depart from the author’s intention. Mss. P₁L₁ (both 1863) L₂Y (both 1868) N (between 1865 and 1880) M (late 19th c.) and L₃ (between 1900 and 1905) have the original date of 1993 years from Fanuta till Muḥammad then an alternative of 1884 years from Fanuta till Muḥammad then the original 5047 years from Creation to Muḥammad. This makes the Hijrah too early by 163 years. Ms J₁ (1908) has only these new figures in the text, without any hint to the reader that they are not what the author wrote.
(c) These new dates are in fact derived from early calculations for the book often known as the Comprehensive History by Khaḍir bin Isḥâq or Finaas ben Yeṣaaq (completed in 1875). The Hijrah is set in 4893 AM [4892 years since creation]= 2099 of Entry [2098 years since Entry] = 1838 years since the start of Fanuta. This correctly makes 2794 years fom Creation to Entry. If what is meant is that the Hijrah is in the year starting 4893 years from Creation, this is too early by 5047 take away 4893 = 154 years. These figures can be explained in part by the loss of 135 years in the extant mss. of the Tûlîda. Khaḍir has added up the years of the High Priests from the death of Alexander to the Hijrah without realising that all mss. available to him were seriously wrong. At the moment I can’t say where Khaḍir managed to delete another 19 years. Anyway, he used critical ability without adequate insight. Such is the overall nature of his book. For example, in his list of the Kings. [Called Judges in the Masoretic Text, but note that the term King is used at XIX:1 and XXI:25 MT]. He alters names and dates under the influence of the Jewish text. His book is indispensable, but his high-handed approach can be a menace, misleading even the most knowledgeable of contemporary Samaritans, and disastrously deceiving some modern European [Ifranji] scholars. Reputations have been built by befuddled or ignorant European scholars on supposed data found in a Hebrew version of his history made in about 1897 and then re-worded in part by using the language of the Masoretic Text in 1907. Part of this is known by Europeans [al-Ifranj] as the Samaritan Hebrew Joshua, and the whole book is often called Chronicle II. Guesses built on guesses have been made without knowing that the book is from the start of the twentieth century and the supposed data only a few years older. Unfortunately the readers of the consequent publications are deceived as much as the authors. For more information on both the Arabic book of 1875 by Finaas and the Hebrew version of 1907, as well as the way European scholars have misused the Hebrew version, see my article The Transmission of the Samaritan Joshua-Judges [DS-NELL vol. VI no. 1, 2004, pp. 1-30]. The history commonly known as Chronicle Adler agrees with the figures mentioned, as it must, since is no more than an alternative but shorter Hebrew version of the Arabic book by Khaḍir, though all scholars remain ignorant of the fact. They also all remain ignorant of the existence of the original Arabic book, unbelievable as that sounds. Everyone familiar with Samaritan literature is familiar with the book, however. See my article.
(d) Colophon of ms. Manchester 288. Tûlîda. 1276 AH = 1860 (margin) or 1861 (margin) AD = 6177 AM. This would make 1 AD = 6177 less 1860 = 4317 AM, the year starting 4316 years from Creation. This is too early by 4,423 take away 4316 = 107 years. New calculations are going on. The most likely explanation is that the calculations derive from the ones being done at the time for the Comprehensive History and the Tulîda.
(e) Colophon of ms. Manchester 258. Hebrew Chronicle derived from the Comprehensive History. 10th month of 1326 AH = 6227 AM = 3433 of Entry = October 1908 AD. This would make 1 AD = 6227 less 1907 = 4320 AM, the year starting 4419 years from Creation. This is too low by 104 years. The period till Entry has been calculated from the figure 6227, with the answer coming out as 2,794 which must have been expected.
(f) A note in the margin of many of the late mss. of AF says the Tulîda makes it 4,869 years from Creation to Muhammad. This is too early by 178 years. The observation itself is close to being right. The explanation is that there are serious omissions in the extant mss., as has been said.
Fourth Set of Examples.
The abandonment of the previous chronology, the one based on misuse of defective lists of High Priests, went through two stages.
In the first stage the missing years were restored. The system first attested in 1703 is modified slightly. The discrepancy in years of creation with the system set out by AF is now 10 + 6 instead of 9 + 6. Ten years instead of nine are now added to years of Creation. The explanation is the same as for the addition of 9 years, a re-interpretation of AF 84:1-5 out of context. The arithmetical mistake of one year in the later pamphlet attached to the Tûlîda could be the direct origin. (See above). There could also be the motive of making it exactly 2,000 years from Fanuta to the Hijrah. I have not found any attestation of this chronology before 1924.
(a) Manchester 307. Calendar. Year 6376 of Creation = 3576 of Entry = 1356 AH  = second year of shemittah. Checking years of Creation. If 1937 AD is 6376 AM, then 1 AD is 6376 – 1936 = 4440 AM . This is 10 + 6 = 16 years too high. Checking what are said to be years of Entry. At the end of the year 3,576 years have elapsed. 73 x 49 = 3577, so year 3576 is the year before a shemittah year. The difference between years of Creation and years of Entry is 2,800. This year is 73 x 49 + 5, the fifth year of the shemittah. The calendar for the year before (Manchester 306) says that year (1936 AD, said to be Year 6375 of Entry) was a shemittah year, which it was not. Calculating of correspondences of years has gone through so many stages that all system has been lost.
(b) The first of the calendars in the Manchester collection is for 1924 AD (Manchester 295). The last is for 1939 (Manchester 308). The same chronology is used.
(c) The latest mention of this system I have found is from 1953. See below.
This is the current synchronisation in Samaritan publications. The original correct figure of 2,794 years (not 2,800) from Creation to Entry has been kept, meaning the old misreading of the Hebrew appendix to the Tûlîda has been seen not to be a tradition. As I have not found any certain attestation of this correction before 1953, I suspect it is due to critical work by Ratson Tsedaka.
(a) Freie Universität Berlin, ms. 8, Daftar. Dated to “3592 according to the long chronology”. The short chronology would be the previous one, with the omissions. This is the last trace of this “short chronology” I have found so far. There is implicitly a competitor. The long chronology would be a restoration of the one before that, but with modifications as described.
(b) No. 16. Liturgy. Dated by the Islamic and the Jewish calendars to a date equivalent to April 1963 AD (not 1962 as Shunnar has it). The year according to Entry is 3602. This would make 1 AD = 3602 – 1962 = 1640. This is 10 years higher than for AF. From this time onwards the current system is well attested and seems to be the only one.
The calculation in the attachment to the Tulîda is due to ignorance of the datum used by AF, that the High Priest Azqayya, who died in the year starting 4100 years from Creation, knew of the death of Alexander. All calculations after AF go back to the mistake in this attachment. What ought to have been the correctives had been lost. The first corrective, the synchronisation of years of Creation with the date of the book, had been lost by 1500 AD. The second corrective, the tradition of the connection of the Jubilee Year with the end of Byzantine rule, must have been lost even before that. There might be a trace of some memory of this in the current dating, according to which the Hijrah is 2,000 years from the Fanuta. The third corrective, the datum that Azqayya knew of the death of Alexander, was overlooked by careless reading, or just ignored. The fourth corrective, the adding up of years of High Priests, was muffed by uncritical reliance on the defective text of the Tûlîda, instead of on the lists given by AF. The very early alteration of the second instance of the synchronisation of the coming of Muhammad with the High Priest Elaazar would have added to the confusion. I conclude that there has been no precise Samaritan tradition of the linkage of years of Creation and Entry to absolute years since some time round about 1490 or earlier. There is a living approximate tradition.
There is only one Samaritan chronological tradition, the one recorded by AF. After that, there is a string of guesses, all due to mistakes and ignorance and loss of tradition. Let us then calculate following Abul-Fataḥ. If the period from Creation till March 1 AD is 4,423 years, then the period from Entry till then is 4,423 take away 2,794 = 1,629 years. From Entry till March 38 AD is 1,629 + 37 = 1,666 years. From Creation to this date is 1,666 + 2,794 = 4,460 years. One thousand six hundred and sixty-six is 34 times 49. This means the year starting in March 37 AD was a forty-ninth year. The Jubilee Year, the fiftieth year, was commemorated in the liturgy on the first of the seventh of the religious year [late September] in 37 AD, and publicly announced by the blowing of the shofar on the Day of Atonement, the tenth of the seventh. It ran from late March 38 AD to late March 39 AD. Whereas Rabbinic Judaism and the Karaites count the Jubilee Year as running from the first day of the seventh month of the shemittah year (year 49) to the end of the sixth month of year 50 (which is the next year 1), Samaritans count the Jubilee Year as the whole of Year 50 (which is the next year 1). It is announced at the start of the seventh month of year 49. This allows six months for emissaries or heralds to go out into all countries to officially announce the approach of the Jubilee. As usual, the Samaritan halachah is the original form.
The most recent Jubilee Year was 1998. This was Year 3636 of Entry. (3,636 = 74 x 49 + 1).
It is worth adding that the year of Creation ending with the death of Moses, just before the crossing of the Jordan, would have been a Jubilee Year in a system counting Jubilee years from Creation. The end of the last year before Entry was 2,794 years from Creation. This is 57 x 49 + 1. It follows that every forty-ninth year in the counting from the year of Entry will be a Jubilee Year in terms of years of Creation. The forty-ninth year thus has a quality distinguishing it from the seventh, fourteenth, twenty-first years and so on.
Dr. Ruairidh Bóid
Honorary Research Associate
Centre for Religion and Theology, School of History, Monash University.
copyright 2008 Stephan Huller
The word mashiach (Heb ‘anointed one’ or ‘messiah’) appears in numerous places in the Jewish Scriptures. Nevertheless Daniel 9:26 is almost the only explicit reference to a future messiah in all the Books of the Prophets. Of course the rabbinic tradition now does not count Daniel among the prophetic writings. The universal acceptance of Agrippa as the mashiach of Daniel is certainly the reason for this puzzling assertion. Now the significance of that tradition is immediately diminished. One can’t say ‘Agrippa is the messiah of the prophets’ because Daniel is no longer part of the prophetic writings.
Indeed as we will see, when the sages aren’t identifying Agrippa as this mashiach they are warning people against inquiring too deeply into who this figure is. After all the necessary corollary of this original belief is now that the messiah has already come. In point of fact these two arguments form the foundation of the Yosippon, the Hebrew reinterpretation of Josephus which enjoyed immense popularity among the Jewish people for most of the last millennia. The whole point of the book was that Agrippa was indeed the messiah but that the wickedness of certain Jews caused the nation to forfeit its right to enjoy his blessings.
For the moment it is enough to point out that Daniel points out that near the end of a period of seventy times seven years (i.e. a concept intimately connected with the Jubilee) the messiah would be taken away from the nation of Israel. It is important to note that he is said to be an anointed leader,נגיד משיח . This is the status that our canonical gospels make Jesus explicitly reject (cf Mark XII: 35-37 and the parallels). What Jesus implicitly claims for himself is something quite different. It is for this reason that we see the early Christian commentators were right in saying the figure in Daniel can’t be Jesus, not only from the chronology of the seventy times seven year period, but also from the use of this term nagid (i.e. leader).
It is not surprising that when we look before Agrippa’s time, it was his grandfather Herod the Great who was first connected with this prophesy. In the Old Russian texts of Josephus (as well as the writings of Eusebius who might have used an early Greek version) we see the argument put forward that Herod was the nagid mashiach:
• At the time the priests mourned and grieved to one another in secret for they did not dare to do so openly out of fear of Herod and his friends. They said, “Our Law bids us to have no foreigner for king (Deut 17:15)… but of Herod we know that he is an Arabian uncircumcised. [Slavonic Josephus, Jewish War 1:370]
• Ananus the priest … spoke to them ‘I know all of Scripture. When Herod fought beneath the city wall I never had a thought that God would permit him to rule over us. But now I understand that our destruction is nigh. Study you the prophecy of Daniel. He writes (9:24f) that after the return from Babylon the city of Jerusalem shall stand for seventy weeks of years which are 490 years and after these years it shall be desolate.’ … but Jonathan answered and spoke ‘the number of years are indeed as we have said. But the Holy of Holies where is he? For Daniel cannot call the Holy one this Herod who is bloodthirsty and impure.’ But one of them by name Levi wishing to outwit them … fled to Herod and informed him of the speeches of the priests which they had spoken against him. But Herod sent by night and slew them all without the knowledge of the people lest they should be roused. [Slavonic Josephus Jewish War 1:370]
Of course these same arguments, almost down to the letter, eventually get applied to Agrippa [cf. Sotah 41]. The pre-existence of a messianic cult associated with Herod the Great only helps to pave the way for Agrippa’s claims.
The same tradition of Josephus for instance claims that when the Jewish temple was finally destroyed by Roman armies supporting Agrippa’s rule we hear that the rebellion itself was caused by a ‘misinterpretation’ of Biblical prophesy. This ‘ambiguous oracle that was also found in their sacred writings’ told that at ‘about that time, one from their country should become governor of the habitable earth.’ Josephus adds that ‘the Jews took this prediction to belong to themselves in particular, and many of the wise men were thereby deceived in their determination. There are about it several interpretations. Indeed some by this understood Herod, but others the crucified wonderworker, others again Vespasian." [Slavonic Josephus, Jewish War 6.312-313; in B. J. VI. v. 4] Notice again that the Agrippa appears here as ‘Herod’ as he does in many of his coins from the period.
Indeed if we look to coins from Herod the Great’s rule we see signs of yet another example of this messianic appropriation. It has been noted by scholars that early in his reign Herod the Great minted many coins with his name and the year of his rule and a symbol of a crown with a chi – or a Greek letter which resembles a cross. It is claimed that chi appears here because it is the first letter of the Greek word ‘christou’ which means ‘to anoint’ and ‘Christos,’ the messiah. The same symbol interesting appears in between the words ‘Markos’ and ‘evangelist’ in the throne inscription likely confirming the apostle’s status as the ‘anointed one’ of his community.
It is nevertheless only after the Jewish War Agrippa completely appropriated his grandfather’s legacy as the mashiach of Daniel. A list of only some of the most notable references in the rabbinic writings relating to Agrippa’s status would have to include:
1. A tradition incorporated in the Mishnah (mid second century CE.) recalls the events surrounding the destruction of the temple where “the Daily Sacrifice was discontinued, the walls of the city were breached, and the Apostle burned the Torah and erected an idol in the Temple.” [Taanith IV. 6] Who else could this ‘apostolos’ be but Agrippa?
2. Seder ‘Olam Rabba (mid second century CE.), which has official standing as the authoritative chronology, has information not in the Mishnah and acknowledges Agrippa as the messiah of Daniel [see Montgomery ].
3. the Yosippon (second century CE., but the editing is probably late Amoraic) Agrippa is explicitly identified as the mashiach of Daniel. The tradition is more historically reliable and more authoritative within the Rabbinic tradition than is generally realized.
4. Epiphanius (fourth century CE.) declares that Jews have stubbornly persisted in recognizing “Herod” instead of Jesus as the Christ or the king announced by the prophets. [Panarion 20.2; the same idea appears in Eusebius Eccl 8 and various later Byzantine writers]
5. Jerome (fourth century CE.) identifies contemporary Jews who read Daniel 9:24–27 as if it already relates to “Christ the prince.” [Braverman, Jerome’s Commentary on Daniel p. 107 – 9]
6. Rabbi Abaye (fourth century CE.) says that prophecy of the messiah in Daniel 9:24–27 (which is universally agreed to refer to the destruction of the temple) was fulfilled "a long time ago" without explaining who exactly the messiah was [Sanhedrin 98b and 97a]
7. Samuel b. Nahmani (fourth century CE.) declares a curse on “those who calculate the end” from Daniel “[f]or they would say since the predetermined time has arrived, and yet he [the messiah] has not come, he will never come.” [Sanhedrin 97b]
8. pseudo-Saadiah Gaon (eleventh century CE.) implicates that Agrippa was the messiah of Dan 9:24-27 and says that the text identifies that “he will strengthen a covenant with the great ones.” [VeDeos ch 8]
9. Rashi (eleventh century CE.) commenting on Daniel 9:26, says this reference to the mashiach points to “Agrippa, the king of Judea, who was ruling at the time of the destruction, will be slain.” [Commentary on Daniel]
• Rashi further develops the historical context of the passage that “Israel should receive their complete retribution in the exile of Titus and his subjugation, in order that their transgressions should terminate, their sins should end, and their iniquities should be expiated, in order to bring upon them eternal righteousness and to anoint upon them (sic) the Holy of Holies: the Ark, the altars, and the holy vessels, which they will bring to them through the king Messiah.” [ibid]
• Rashi says further more that “[t]he monarch who will come” will destroy the Roman armies and their “end will come about by inundation. And his end will be damnation and destruction, for He will inundate the power of his kingdom through the Messiah.” [ibid]
• Rashi refers to a historical situation where the Messiah “will strengthen Titus [through] a covenant with the princes of Israel … He will promise them the strengthening of a covenant and peace for seven[ty] years, but within the seven[ty] years, he will abrogate his covenant. [H]e will abolish sacrifice and meal-offering” … and “[t]hrough a covenant of tranquility, he will destroy them [i.e. the Romans].” [ibid]
• Rashi concludes that the Messiah “will place the dumb one, the pagan deity, which is dumb … [and] the dumb one and the ruling of the abomination will endure until the day that the destruction and extermination decreed upon it [will] befall it, in the days of the king Messiah … and total destruction will descend upon the image of the pagan deity and upon its worshippers.” [ibid]
• Some Rabbinic commentators interpret Rashi’s ideas to mean that bar Kochba, the leader of the subsequent revolt against Rome, was Agrippa’s son [Shafranovich, The Halachic Status of the Herodian Dynasty 7]
10. Ibn Ezra (twelfth century CE.) explicitly identifies Agrippa with the messiah of Dan 9:26, as Montgomery notes, citing the Hebrew text of Josephus (vi. c. 30 (s. Shurer 1, 159) who gives a tradition of Agrippa’s martyr-death [Montgomery The International Critical Commentary on Daniel, p. 397]
11. Ibn Daud (twelfth century CE.) insists that Daniel’s messianic prophesies had already been fulfilled and therefore could no longer be applied in the future [Cohen, The Book of Traditions, p. 241]
12. Maimonides (twelfth century CE.) says that previous traditions similarly held that the messiah already came, viz. "Daniel has elucidated to us the knowledge of the end times. However, since they are secret, the wise (rabbis) have barred the calculation of the days of Messiah's coming so that the untutored populace will not be led astray when they see that the End Times have already come but there is no sign of the Messiah." [Igeret Teiman, Chapter 3 p.24]
13. Nachmanides (thirteenth century CE.) identifies Agrippa as the messiah of Daniel 9:26, but, as Goldwurm notes, he also “imputes this information to the Sages, [but,] as the editor of [his work] notes, his sources are unknown.” [Goldwurm, Daniel A New Translation with Commentary, p. 264]
• Nachmanides, likely drawing from these ancient sources, argues that, at the time Agrippa was the messiah, Christianity was being formulated as a ‘Roman plot’ to subvert the Jewish religion, saying “[o]ur relationship with Rome and Edom [i.e. Christianity] is similar. We ourselves caused our falling into their hands, since they made a covenant with the Romans, and Agrippa, the last king during the Second Temple, fled to them for help. It was because of the famine that Jerusalem was captured by the Romans, and the exile has greatly prolonged itself over us.” [Commentary on Genesis 47:28]
• Nachmanides takes the passage in the Mishnah (late second century CE.) which refers to the “flattery” shown Agrippa by his contemporaries to be a covert reference to the new Christian doctrine – viz. “this being a reference to the exile in which we were expatriated to Rome because of the journey there of King Agrippa.” [Commentary on Deut 28:36]; Genesis Rabba (late second century CE.) identifies that “flattery,” hanif, is a codeword for “Christian heresy;” Muhammad was taught by a group of Christian ascetics called “the hanifim.”
• Nachmanides was put on trial by Catholics for his belief in “another messiah” beside Jesus identified in the Talmud. He was ultimately banished from Spain because of his beliefs. [cf. Wikkuach]
14. Abarbanel (fifteenth century CE.) similarly argued that Agrippa was the messiah of Dan 9:24 – 27 and, as Goldwurm notes, “though admitting he can find no source for [Nachmanides] statement, champions [his] assertion. [Nachmanides’] reputation is assurance enough that he had good sources for his statement though they have been lost to us.” [Goldwurm, Daniel A New Translation with Commentary, p. 264]
• Abarbanel speaks of the idea where "[t]he messiah will have to die in order to purify the generation and he will wait in a spiritual state in heaven until he rises from the dead as it says in the Talmud Sanhedrin 98b." [Yeshuot Moshicho Part 2, topic 2, chapter 1]
• Abarbanel became the touchstone of contemporary European attacks against the widespread Jewish belief in “Agrippa the messiah.” As Calvin notes, “Rabbi Abarbinel, who thinks himself superior to all others, rejects our idea of the spiritual reign of Christ as a foolish imagination. For the kingdom of God, he says, is established under the whole heavens, and is given to the people of the saints. If it is established under heaven, says he, it is earthly, and if earthly, therefore not spiritual.” [Commentary on Daniel Volume 2]
• Calvin identifies him as “[t]hat trifler Abarbanel … who thinks Agrippa has just as much right to be called a Christ” but whom Christians know “cannot by any means be called Christ, even though he had surpassed all angels in wisdom, and virtue, and power, and everything else. Here [the Church] is treated, and this will not be found in the person of Agrippa.” [ibid]
• Calvin is similarly scandalized by the fact that Abarbanel “allows [Agrippa’s] defection to the Romans, but states it to have been against his will, as he was still a worshipper of God. Although he was clearly an apostate, yet he treats him as by no means worse than all the rest, and for this reason he wishes him to be called the Christ.” [ibid]
• Luther notes the German Jews of his day entertained similar ideas writing, “Oh, how ridiculous it seems to these circumcised saints that we accursed Goyim have interpreted and understand this saying thus, especially since we did not consult their rabbis, Talmudists, and Kokhbaites whom they regard as more authoritative than all of Scripture. For they do a far better job of it. This is what they say… ‘And after sixty-two weeks the Messiah (that means King Agrippa) will be killed and will not be’ -- this means, will be no king … [yet] Agrippa was not killed after the sixty-two weeks – in brief, all that they [the Jews] say is a lie.” [On the Jews and Their Lies, Chapter 12]
• Luther again argues against the Jews that “[n]either can one produce a Messiah to whom the statement in Daniel 9 applies other than this Jesus of Nazareth, even if this drives the devil with an his angels and Jews to madness. For we heard before how lame the lies of the Jews regarding King Cyrus and King Agrippa are.” [ibid Chapter19]
15. The Metsudat David (a seventeenth-century commentary from Prague) agrees with the prevalent Jewish interpretation of Daniel 9:24–27 and adds “[w]hen the second temple will be destroyed, the righteous King Messiah will come and rule forever in everlasting.”
16. The messianic claimant Jacob Frank (eighteenth century CE.) seems to give a positive spin to the Rabbinic tradition attributed to the sages regarding Christianity as a Roman conspiracy. An oral tradition regarding Agrippa’s status was passed on to me by my grandfather.
It is worth noting that Montogomery notes that there exists a parallel Christian tradition identifying Agrippa as the messiah of Daniel emanating out of Alexandria [ ]. An overview of this tradition would take into account that:
• According to Coptic tradition, the great secret associated with Mark’s original gospel was that Mark placed himself as an unobtrusive character here and there in the text [cf Severus of Hermopolis, The Acts of Mark]. The Latin Muratorian Canon (late second century CE.) confirms this understanding when it declares “those things at which [Mark] was present he placed thus [in his gospel].” Scholars usually read the terse note of the Muratorian Canon as implying that Mark transcribed what he was present to hear Peter recount. But suppose it meant that Mark was an eye-witness and recounted his own reminiscences?
• One of the factors leading me to identify this apostolic Mark with the Herodian prince Marcus Agrippa is the striking fact that the Gospel of Mark is founded on the very messianic proof text which is used throughout the Rabbinic tradition to prove that Agrippa was the Christ. “Mark [at Mark 13:14] inserts his own comments about the abomination, suggesting the phrase was some kind of code between him and his audience. It is a quote from the Book of Daniel where it appears in 9:27” [
• As we already noted earlier the Alexandrian tradition, devoted as it was to Mark, shows remarkable agreement with the surviving Jewish interpretation of Daniel. Clement follows the methodology employed by the rabbis – only a thousand years before them – saying at one point "[i]n those ‘sixty and two weeks,’ as the prophet said, and ‘in the one week,’ was he [Christ] Lord. The half of the week Nero held sway, and in the holy city Jerusalem placed the abomination; and in the half of the week he [Christ] was taken away … [a]nd Vespasian rose to the supreme power, and destroyed Jerusalem, and desolated the holy place.” [Stromata 1:21]
• Clement’s successor Origen is similarly connected with the Rabbinic tradition’s interpretation of the passage in Daniel. As Montgomery notes, the messiah of Daniel 9:26 is for “Origen ‘Herod’ or ‘Agrippa’ [just as it is] for Eusebius ‘Herod.” [Montgomery The International Critical Commentary on Daniel, p. 399]
• Origen himself writes, "since the temple was destroyed, there exists no longer sacrifice, nor altar, nor priesthood… the weeks of years, also, which the prophet Daniel had predicted, extending to the leadership of Christ, have been fulfilled … [for] according to Daniel, seventy weeks were fulfilled until Christ the Ruler.” [De Principiis 4]
The amazing and almost completely unrecognized truth is that, in what is certainly the most important prophecy of the messiah, no Christian writer before the Protestant Reformation identifies the mashiach of Dan 9:26 with Jesus. There simply has to be an explanation for this omission, yet none is forthcoming. Almost all Christian interpretations of Daniel’s seventy weeks follow the original Jewish understanding which not only identifies the events as corresponding to the destruction of the temple [Mark 13:14] but which also identify the messiah as Mark. [Tertullian, An Answer to the Jews 8] The parallels with Jewish interpretation are completely stunning when we take into account Hippolytus’ [third century CE.] recognition that Daniel’s prophecy not only identifies the point at which “Christ is come” with the end of the Jewish religion in 70 CE., but also as the time when “the Gospel is preached in every place.” [Seventy Weeks] This not only parallels the “tradition of the [ancient Jewish] Sages” referenced in Nachmanides but also conforms to the time frame when most scholars date initial publication of the Gospel of Mark.
copyright 2008 Stephan Huller
There is a strange undervaluation of Agrippa in the surviving texts of Josephus. It has led many (most) scholars to undervalue Marcus Agrippa’s historical significance. I suspect this “de-messianization” of the last king of Israel was deliberate. According to my understanding the same hand who added the Testamonium Flavium to the original (lost) Greek text of Josephus also manipulated the account of Agrippa’s historical value.
These arguments are best left for another work but we should consider for a moment the strange (deliberate) reintroduction of Agrippa’s messianic significance into the late Hebrew copies of Josephus. As has long been recognized by scholars, the so-called “Yosippon” (a corruption of the name ‘Josephus’) represents only one in a series of surviving expansions of a fourth century Latin text of Josephus known to scholars as the work of pseudo-Hegesippus. The Slavonic (Old Russian) text of Josephus is another.
Our familiar Greek texts of Josephus witness that the author did indeed include “messianic commentary” in his historical tome. He references for instance the prophesy from the Book of Numbers where it is said:
I shall see him, but not now: I shall behold him, but not nigh: there shall come a Star out of Jacob, and a Sceptre shall rise out of Israel, and shall smite the corners of Moab, and destroy all the children of Sheth.
While our familiar Greek texts claim that everyone believed the words applied solely to Vespasian, the head of the Roman army, who would go on to be Roman Emperor, the Old Russian texts seems to imply that at least ‘some’ applied the messianic prophesy to Agrippa. We read in that version of Josephus’ lost original text that “some indeed by this [prophesy in the Book of Numbers] understood Herod [to be referenced] but others the crucified wonder-doer Jesus, others again Vespasian.”
Of course it makes no sense whatsoever to think that Herod the Great was meant here. We have already seen countless witnesses who point to the fact that the Jews did indeed hold their king to be the awaited messiah announced by the prophets. Indeed the only ‘Herod’ alive at the time of the destruction of the Temple was Marcus Agrippa. What’s more coins discovered by archaeologists demonstrate that he did indeed call himself ‘Herod Agrippa.’ Our interpretation is further reinforced by the Hebrew and Latin texts of Josephus where, in the case of the former, we read that “some of the people said that he will be Israel's king, but the sages of Jerusalem and the priests said that he will be the king of the Romans.”
This underlying notion in the Hebrew texts of Josephus or as it is known to scholars – the Yosippon – is very interesting. It preserves a very different version (even ‘versions’) of the same events described in the texts of Josephus and maintained by the various Churches. Most scholars ignore the tradition behind the Yosippon seeing it as little more than “popular historical literature.” Yet, as Bowman notes, “the Yosippon, was the most popular book on Jewish history for the past millennium, and nearly every Jewish male and most females were familiar with its story and its message of national pride.”
The work claims to be the authentic text of the Jewish historian Josephus. This certainly isn’t true. Nevertheless we can argue that the Hebrew text is no more corrupt than the surviving copies of Josephus which circulate among the Gentiles, which offer the service of transforming Josephus into a secret witness for Jesus Christ. All surviving texts of Josephus have suffered from editorial manipulation in one form or another. The more important thing is for us to use all of the available evidence to come up with a proper understanding of the period of the Jewish War – including the Yosippon.
I personally feel that we should approach this text as a collection of specifically Jewish traditions about the events of 70 CE blended into the surviving Latin text of Josephus. No one should be surprised that many of these ‘insertions’ involved quite complex developments of scripture. That just happens to be the way rabbinic minds approached history. In point of fact what should be more surprising is that surviving Latin text on which the Yosippon is based betrays many of the same features. It inserts an ‘interpretation of Daniel’ into the main narrative of a speech between Josephus and the leader of the Zealots much in the way the Jewish author of the Yosippon does throughout his development of the text. The only difference is that this Christian editor manipulates the text in favor of the traditional European messiah Jesus while the Jewish editor of the Yosippon does the same in terms of Marcus Agrippa.
The time is right to deal with the most problematic aspect of the Yosippon. The author takes as his starting point the fact that Marcus Agrippa was indeed the awaited messiah of Israel. This much seems to follow my claims about the last king of the Jews. Nevertheless, the Yosippon couldn’t allow for the fact that Agrippa went on to destroy the temple so it essentially ‘cheated’ and followed the escape route developed for it by the countless generations of rabbis to avoid what actually followed next in ‘real historical time.’
The Yosippon is very aware of the traditional rabbinic interpretation of yakarath – viz. ‘cut off’ - in verse 26. The medieval rabbis had the scroll of Daniel on the one hand and clear testimonies from Jews that Agrippa lived on to reap the rewards of the destruction of the temple and most significantly they also had ‘Rome’ throughout the ages beating and threatening them into submission. At some point they reached a crossroad in their faith and they came up with a compromise that satisfied all concerns (save for truthfulness).
The solutions they found was rooted in that little word karath. Hebrew and Aramaic words can have a wide variety of meanings. In this case the Aramaic word had a range of meanings from ‘removed,’ ‘castrated,’ ‘destroyed’ to ‘killed.’ In order to reconcile two contradictory poles of their existing tradition the rabbis had their Christ ‘killed’ three and a half years before the destruction of the temple in accordance with the words of Daniel.
The underlying point here is that even when the rabbinic tradition and the author of the Yosippon claimed that Agrippa was ‘killed’ in accordance with Scripture, it could not have sincerely believed these claims. The most sacred books in its religion contradicted this claim, not to mention the earlier copies of Josephus that they had originally used to make their claims. Nevertheless none of this should mean that we have to give up employing the Yosippon as a source for the early Jewish veneration of Marcus Agrippa as the messiah. There is simply too much valuable information in it to ignore.
Perhaps the most shocking thing that emerges from the Yosippon is the manner in which this ‘slain’ Agrippa begins to resemble Jesus of the Christian literature. The Yosippon consistently emphasizes that Agrippa was the messiah who succumbed to the wicked treachery of Jews who betrayed him. They falsely accused Agrippa of plotting against Caesar, which leads directly to his execution by Vespasian.
The author’s central claim is that because of what the Jews did to Agrippa the daily offerings in the temple ceased. Agrippa is “cut off” both in the sense of being killed and in the sense of having no heirs. His end is the prelude to the permanent end of the Temple service marked by its symbolic desecration. It was his death, along with Titus’ erection of ‘the Abomination’ mentioned in Daniel’s prophesy, that marked the absolute end of Judaism in the period. The details of the timing of the demolition don’t matter very much after this. Indeed, according to the Yosippon, Agrippa’s “cutting off” is taken to be the real defining moment for Israel.
The reason the wicked Jews conspire to get Agrippa killed is because they reject his theological arguments in favor of accepting the authority of Rome. There is a long quotation, a few chapters earlier, of a long exhortation by Agrippa on the wisdom of choosing peace. It is central to the composition. It resurfaces time and time again as an important reference point. Various Jews end up uttering words to the effect of ‘remember that speech which Agrippa gave about accepting peace.’ Our surviving texts place much of this material in the mouth of Josephus.
The point of the narrative seems to be that Agrippa offered the nation an alternative to the suffering which beset the nation for the next thousand or so years. It is written with later events very much in mind. In the material that follows in the Yosippon about the execution of Agrippa it says, not in words, but by its allusions to words in Daniel 9 and 12, that this collective slander brought about the absolute end of the Anointed line, which immediately brought about the end of the Tamid offering and then eventually the erection of the Abomination of Desolation and the destruction of the building (the Temple) for ever.
This is a most remarkable development for the Yosippon places Agrippa on a timeline that reaches back to Moses and the founding of Israel. It is inferred that there was something unique about Agrippa in the history of this people whereby his being “cut off” leads directly to abandonment of Jerusalem sanctuary. While it is never said explicitly, it has to come down to the fact that he was the awaited messiah, and that the actions of the wicked caused his downfall, since the offerings could no longer continue.
I believe it is impossible to overstate the true significance of this revelation. It is otherwise difficult to explain why the Jews in particular completely gave up on the original sacrificial rituals that came down from Moses. They were, by contrast, maintained to a limited degree in Judaism’s sister culture in Samaria. But in fact, the reason that all but the most radical ultra-orthodox sects simply gave up on everything to do with the old rituals was that Marcus Agrippa was utterly unique.
Indeed the whole text of the Yosippon – and rabbinic theology for that matter - all comes down to that word “cut off.” We see that in the first place, Agrippa, the Anointed, was cut off by being killed. Secondly, the Anointed line of descent was cut off by his execution. Third, the kingship of the second Moses was cut off, so the Temple had no reason to exist. So the end came not upon the destruction of the building but upon the end of Agrippa, unequivocally evident from the end of the Sabbath offering on the day of his death and the lack of any offering on the following Sabbath.
As I mentioned a little earlier there are uncanny parallels here in the text to the rituals of Christianity, especially Easter Sunday. We should recall that the Resurrection was exactly at the end of the Sabbath, at sunset on our Saturday. In the same way the death of Agrippa (in the text) was on the exact day of the last offering. This end of the Temple service and the end of its reason for existence were the direct result predicted in Daniel of such an act, just as the daily offering ended a week after the execution, as a consequence of his being ‘cut off.’
It is necessary to stress time and time again that only one part of this historical equation is true. The ancient Jews must have always venerated the ‘uniqueness’ of Marcus Agrippa’s messianic status. It was only later generations that capitulated to the relentless pressure from ‘Rome’ to find some way out of the acknowledgement of earlier generations that this man was indeed the awaited messiah.
Now we can see why the ghost of the past had to be removed by the permanent desecration of the Temple. Something about Marcus Agrippa made him unique among all the kings, prophets and historical figures who came before or after him. One must infer that it was because he was the one historical messiah predicted by Moses and the prophets who was “cut off” owing to the iniquity of the Jews which led to the destruction of the holy sanctuary.
The only reason these later traditions could fictitiously kill off Marcus Agrippa years before his true, historical death, was because they were sufficiently removed from the historical incidents in question. The earlier rabbinic sources know full well that Agrippa remained king of Israel well into the reign of the Emperor Domitian. They also identified him as being entirely hostile to Judaism. In other words, they knew a most dangerous truth, one that was entirely at odds with their first principles. It must have been clear that Agrippa wanted to destroy the temple. His messianic claims were inextricably tied with this historical event. They also seemed to have knowledge of him claiming to preach a ‘more perfect doctrine’ and to be in the possession of a ‘more perfect Law.’
All of this must have been deeply troubling for the heads of Judaism throughout the ages. Could it be that Agrippa, the acknowledged messiah of Judaism, established Christianity as a new religion for the Jews? We can only get to this answer one step at a time. For the moment there is one last Jewish tradition that spells out Agrippa’s connection with the destruction of the temple which requires our attention. It seems to acknowledge that he did indeed live to not only see the destruction but actively took part in the defilement.
If we look carefully we must acknowledge that the Mishnah undoubtedly also identifies him as the ‘apostle’ who is identified as the ultimate cause of the end of the temple service as we just saw in the Yosippon. It says that three weeks before that fateful day of 10th of August, 70 CE:
the daily-offering ceased (in the Temple), the walls of the City (of Jerusalem) were breached, Apostolos burned the Torah Scroll and placed an idol in the Sanctuary.
Clearly this is another tradition about the events surrounding the destruction of the temple that will help us ultimately put all the necessary pieces together.
If we avoid doing what religious minds tend to do when basing their understanding on Scripture – i.e. literally juxtaposing every line of Daniel’s prophesy against the historical details of the temple – the rival tradition that a figure called ‘Apostle’ was responsible for the destruction is quite instructive. I believe that it allows for the ‘uniquely unique’ Agrippa to finally become liberated from the artificial theological construct in which he is imprisoned in texts such as the Yosippon.
Agrippa was indeed the one for whom a hundred generations of Jews waited. We can also say that the Yosippon was undoubtedly correct in claiming that Marcus Agrippa was intimately connected with the ‘cessation of the daily offering.’ However we should ultimately become very suspicious about the manner in which the Yosippon neatly avoids the second accusation present in the Mishnah – namely that he set up ‘an idol’ in the Sanctuary.
The reader should not be surprised by any of this. In the end I will reveal that this ‘abomination of desolation’ was the most familiar of Christian symbols, the Cross, triumphing over its Jewish rival – viz. the Temple. The idea appears in countless ancient sources including surviving copies of the histories of Josephus.
For the present moment I need only mention that I can state the ultimate reason why Agrippa had to be removed from his original connection with this event. Not only was he the messiah ‘who was cut off’ was ‘left with nothing’ but also the one who ‘established a firm covenant’ through the gospel causing ‘the sacrifice and the offering to cease.’ All that is now required from is for us to step back from our mindless acceptance of the cross as something ‘beautiful,’ ‘blessed’ and ‘beneficent’ and see it for what it really was – a symbol of fear directed originally not to Gentiles but against Jews in the aftermath of the revolt of 70 CE.
To do this requires us to abandon all those preconceived notions that our culture has foisted upon both us and our ancestors. These go back almost two thousand years. We have arrived at the inescapable conclusion that Marcus Agrippa was indeed identified as ‘the Apostle.’ Perhaps at least some readers will now even be prepared to take that one step further and allow the final identification of Marcus Agrippa as ‘the Apostle Mark’ …