The following account of historical errors in the Bible is by no means meant to be all-inclusive.
Early Old Testament/Tanakh
Contrary to what fundamentalists and other Biblical literalists, which include Orthodox Jews, believe, the various scriptures are riddled with contradictions and errors. The idea that the universe and the earth were created in their entirety in a mere six days and have been around for just 6000 years (versus the actual 13,800,000,000 for the universe and 4,500,000,000 for earth) heads the list. Speaking of which, the Bible doesn’t know whether humanity was created before everything else or as the finale of it all.
We can start with Genesis where we have Abram (Abraham) hanging out with a king of the Philistines. The mythical figure Abraham supposedly lived around 1800 or 1700 BCE; there were no Philistines until around 1175 BCE. Meaning that they also came well after the time of Moses whom literalists believe wrote the first five books of the Bible.
Speaking of Abram again, he supposedly came from Ur “of the Chaldees”; much like the former example, this is an anachronism. Although their ancestors were certainly around, no Chaldees as such existed at this time, not until the 900’s BCE, in fact.
Later in Exodus, the supposed Israelites built “treasure cities” which never existed, living in a slavery which never happened, abiding in a land (Goshen) which is a myth, from which they fled behind a prophet named Moses whose name is in fact the Greek form of the Aramaic name Mazas, which is that languages version of the name Mazda, who is the deity of the Iranian prophet Zarathustra, walking over a sea bed which has never been dry, wandering for a forty years in a tiny peninsula which does not exist in this space-time continuum.
All of the alleged history which follows is by the explicit admission of the Jewish scholars who collated the canon of their scriptures not history, but “prophecy”. In other words, those scholars are honest enough to admit their bias even though priests, preachers, and rabbis are not.
The book Joshua was almost certainly written by whomever collated the Torah. One of the better known stories, about the alleged battle of Jericho could not have happened since that city had been uninhabited for centuries.
Of all the various and sundry individual writings in this collection, the one called Daniel is the most controversial and disputed. The Septuagint version, the earliest canon of Hebrew scriptures, placed Daniel with the Nevi’im, or Prophets, while the Karaite Masoretes, of over a millennium later, placed it with the Ketuvim, or Writings.
Despite what fundamentalist Christians and Orthodox Jews would have us believe about its own claims for being written in the time of the Chaldean Empire based in Babylon, it was, in truth, composed in its entirety no earlier than the 2nd century BCE. A sure way to make prophecies that come true is to make them after the fact, as we can see from the “predictions” in Daniel that “came true” during the 2nd century, like the “abomination of desolation” and the so-called four empires. It is likely that the same author composed both Daniel and 1 Maccabees, in which the “prophecies” of Daniel were shown to become true.
The figure of Daniel as portrayed in the pseudepigraphal story written in his name is not merely anachronistic but entirely mythical. In fact, the name Daniel in the writings allegedly under that name is but a corruption of the name of the legendary Canaanite figure Danel.
In real time, Danel first appears in the writings allegedly of the prophet Ezekial, at least in the Septuagint version. The Masoretes realized the contradiction and, embarrassed that such evidence remained of lingering polytheism, edited it to read “Danie”l in their heavily redacted version of the Tanakh. In two of the passages in which he is mentioned, Danel appears with two other heroic figures of Canaanite legend, while in the third he is mentioned alone. The myths about Danel were stories of his wisdom and it is not too far-fetched to believe that the stories attributed to the mythic Solomon originated as stories of Danel.
Ezekial 14:14 & 20: Though these three men, Noah, Danel, and Job, were in it, they should deliver but their own souls by their righteousness, saith the Lord God….Though Noah, Danel, and Job were in it, as I live, saith the Lord God, they shall deliver neither son nor daughter; they shall but deliver their own souls by their righteousness
Ezekial 28:3: Behold, thou art wiser than Danel; there is no secret that they can hide from thee.
The current form of the book of Daniel in Jewish Scriptures (and most non-Catholic Western Christians) combines the work of at least two different writers/editors, with chapters 1 and 7-12 being written in Hebrew and 2-6 in Aramaic. The Septuagint and versions which follow it contain even more interpolations.
A few examples of mistakes here will suffice.
First, Belshazzar was never actually king, but this mistake is somewhat forgivable because he governed as regent for much of the reign of his father, who reigned until the conquest by the Iranians. His father was not Nebuchadnezzar II, who died in 562 BCE, as given in Daniel, however, but Nabonidus, who assumed the throne in 556 BCE and was not only completely unrelated to Nebuchadnezzar (regent 553) but wasn’t even Chaldean. He, and therefore his son, were of no royal or even noble descent and were from Assyria, ruling from Babylon.
Side note: Nabonidus, and his son Belshazzar, promoted the worship of Sin, god of the moon in Mesopotamia both north and south. In the north, Assyria, the center of Sin worship was the city of Harran, which might give a clue to the true origins of father and son. In the south, Babylonia, the center of Sin worship was at the city of Ur.
Wait a minute…where have we heard the name of that city before? Oh yeah, the place where Abram was supposedly from. And in this case, Ur actually was “of the Chaldees”.
Now, to the fall of Babylon. “Darius the Mede”, to whom Daniel assigns the role of conquerer of the city and empire, never existed. He’s completely fictional. The Medes never conquered Babylonia, though they did conquer Assyria in northern Mesopotamia. It was Cyrus the Great who led the Iranian army which conquered Babylonia, and with it Syria, Kanaan (Phoenicia), Samerina, Yehud, and Philistia.
Knowing how the city’s priesthood of Marduk despised the worship of Sin, which had been getting all the tribute money previously flowing into their coffers, Cyrus abolished the official cult of Sin worship and restored Marduk and his priests to their former place and income, but also prescribed freedom of religion so as not to suppress anyone’s worship. He had done the same previously after conquering the Median Empire two decades earlier when he gutted the power of the Zorastrian priesthood who worshipped Mazda/Mazas/Moses.
Cyrus the Great, “Koroush Kabir” in transliterated Farsi, never worshipped Yahweh, the national god of the Jews and Samaritans, as claimed in the latter chapters of Daniel and elsewhere in the Tanakh, nor did he make any decrees in the latter’s name. We know this because we have his decree on hand (currently touring the United States), in the form of the Cyrus Cylinder, and from this we know he never specifically mentioned the Jews or Jerusalem or rebuilding anyone’s temples as claimed in Daniel and elsewhere.
Birth and early life of Jesus bar Joses
From lies of the mid-2nd century BCE, let’s travel forward in time four centuries or so to look at lies from the late 2nd century CE. That’s when the canonically-approved gospels as we know them reached their current form.
My first question: was Jesus bar Joses descended from Solomon the king in 28 generations or from Nathan the prophet in 42 generations? I’m a little confused, because the geneaology in the Gospel according to Matthew shows the first, while that in the Gospel according to Luke shows the latter.
I know both were intended to “prove” Jesus bar Joses’ Davidic descent, but there are two problems here. First, the geneaologies trace to Joses, who is purported in both cases not to be Jesus’ biological father, so they are irrelevant to Jesus’ ancestry. Second, Davidic descent is irrelevant according to Jesus himself, or at least according to the words the writers of the gospels put into his mouth, him questioning whether the Messiah was David’s son.
Third, since Mary and the Holy Spirit were presumably not married, doesn’t that make the offspring of said union (Jesus) illegitimate, i.e., a bastard? Not to mention the fact that the Holy Spirit, or Ruach ha-Kodesh, in Judaism was (and still is) feminine and was in Christianity before the Gentile-friendly of the religion (Paul) gave her a penis. In essence, what this union of Mary and Holy Spirit does is put the Almighty’s seal of approval on same-sex marriages.
Now, from whence did this only-known spawn of two female personages in history come? One gospel (Matthew) shows the family living already in Bethlehem where Jesus was allegedly born before fleeing to Egypt then moving back to Palestine only changing residence to Nazareth. The other (Luke) shows the family having to drag their arses out of Nazareth in compliance with an empire-wide census that never actually took place with Mary extremely pregnant and riding on a donkey to Bethlehem where she gives birth in a stable in a cave then returning to Nazareth when the census was complete.
All this was written with the intention of showing, as before, the Davidic connection of Jesus bar Joses by having him born in the “city of David”. Which would actually be more likely than Nazareth, since the latter did not exist until the 3rd century CE, or at the very least was so insignificant as to not be noticed before that. Not bloody likely since the later location of Nazareth is within the suburban area of the Galilean capital of Sepphoris. That would be like not mentioning Georgetown, suburb or Washington.
In the earliest copies of the gospels the exist, the protagonist is referred to as Jesus the Nazarene, or Nazorean. Nazorean was, at this time, a title or the clergy of the Mandaean sect of Judaism, which today hold John the Baptist as their chief saint and may have even then. The gospels said there was a Nazareth, so a Nazareth came into being.
Likewise, when Helena Augusta, mother of Constantine the Great and ardent Christian, made a pilgrimage to what she considered the “Holy Land” (always a Christian rather than Jewish affectation) and wanted to visit the place of Jesus’ birth in Bethlehem, the cave in which Mithras was said to have been born wasn’t being used anymore, so why not? That’s also how the Grotto of Venus outside Aelia Capitolina, now renamed Jerusalem, came to be the “Holy Sepulchre” and the temple of Mercury in the upper city became the “Upper Room”, and how the acropolis that housed the temple of Jupiter and temple of Juno and Minerva became the Temple Mount holding the remains of the Temple of Herod and the Royal Stoa, and how the temple of Asclepius became the pool of Bethesda.
Herod the Great, mentioned in Luke as the current ruler at the time of the birth of Jesus bar Joses, had been procurator of Galilaea from 47-37 BCE, and, after adding Iudaea to his territory once the unlamented Hasmoneans were at last exterminated, was recognized as King of the Jews from 37 BCE to 4 BCE.
Galilaea, along with Syria, had been under direct Roman rule since 63 BCE when Pompey conquered the whole region for the glory of Rome. His Hasmonean allies were already Roman clients and continued as such until they became too much trouble.
And it came to pass in those days, that there went out a decree from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be taxed.
Caesar Augustus, aka Octavius Caesar, died in 14 BCE. Never at any time in the entire history of the Imperium Romanum/Basilea Rhomain/Roman Empire was “the whole world” taxed.
(And this taxing was first made when Cyrenius was governor of Syria.)
Cyrenius, Publius Sulpicius Quirinius, was legatus of Syria 6-12 CE. He became legatus the same year that Archaleus was desposed as tetrarch of Iudaea-Samaraea-Idumaea and replaced with a Roman praefectus named Coponius as Iudaea had become an imperial province. As that was so, the population needed to be taxed, because empires need money just as much as deities.
As Galilaea (then under Antipas, son of Herod) was an entirely separate sub-province altogether, the non-existent city of Nazareth would not have been subject to the census. I hear Freddie Mercury singing “Another One Bites the Dust”. While Herod was perfectly horrid to his in-laws, the less than zero evidence that such an atrocity as the alleged Slaughter of the Innocents leads an objective reader to the conclusion this Gothic tale is a bit of a fabrication. That’s polite for “total bullshit”.
Herod, by the way, was by all accounts a good ruler, at least toward the populace. His building programs alone were the largest undertakings in the Southern Levant since the days of Omri and Ahab, the founder of the northern kingdom and his son. For the general populace, his was much better than the Hasmoneans, most of whom were monsters.
Herod’s relations with his in-laws were formed in the light of their stunning duplicity and treachery, which rivaled that of the Bolshevik exiles who returned to Russia after the February Revolution and whose conniving machinations turned Stalin the mediator willing to work with the rival Mensheviks for the common good into Stalin the Terrible.
The Magi story is a nice one, but far-fetched. Since the Magi and the rest of Zoroastrians were not looking for a Jewish messiah to make the Jews triumphant over all the world and their Torah the law of all the earth but for an Iranian figure called Saoshyant to bring about the Frashokereti, or final reordering of the universe, they wouldn’t have noticed. Not even if a giant disembodied hand appeared out of thin air and wrote it on a wall.
Years of Jesus’ alleged ministry
The next pathetic attempt to place this story in history comes in Luke 3:1, which reads: Now in the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar, Pontius Pilate being governor of Judaea, and Herod being tetrarch of Galilee, and his brother Philip tetrarch of Ituraea and of the region of Trachonitis, and Lysanias the tetrarch of Abilene, Annas and Caiaphas being the high priests, the word of God came unto John the son of Zacharias in the wilderness.
Okay, a few points here.
Tiberius Iulius Caesar Augustus ruled the Imperium Romanum 14 BCE-37 CE, which would make the fifteenth year of his rule 1 CE. That is the year the author of Luke is saying that John the Baptist began preaching. It is clearly way outside the time of the rest of the governors mentioned, though his reign does include their years of service.
Pontius Pilatus was praefectus of Iudaea 26-36 CE. Antipas, son of Herod, ruled Galilaea and Peraea 4 BCE-39 CE. His brother Philip ruled Batanea, Ituraea, Gaulinitis, and Trachonitis 4 BCE-34 CE. Their sister Salome, by the way, ruled Philistia 4 BCE-10 CE, lasting four years longer than Archelaus did in Iudaea-Samaraea-Idumaea; she was succeeded by Livia Drusilla, mother of Tiberius, who ruled Philistia until 29 CE.
Lysanias bar Talmai, successor of his father and half-Hasmonean, actually ruled Abila, Chalcis, and Ituraea 40-36 BCE, ending his reign in execution by Marcus Antonius.
Annas, actually Ananus ben Seth, served as high priest 6-15 CE, when he was deposed for executing too many people, which he wasn’t even supposed to be doing. No one named Caiaphas was ever high priest, but there was one named Joseph ben Caiaphas 18-36 CE, who was deposed by Lucius Vitellius, legatus of Syria.
At Luke 13:1-2, we have: There were present at that season some that told him of the Galilaeans, whose blood Pilate had mingled with their sacrifices. And Jesus answering said unto them, Suppose ye that these Galilaeans were sinners above all the Galilaeans, because they suffered such things?
The problem with this is that as brutal as Pilatus often was, he never did any such thing. In fact, the only case in which the blood of Galileans was mixed with sacrifices in the temple took place the lead-up to the Siege of Jerusalem in 70 CE. It happened as part of the infighting which doomed the stand of the rebels from the outset, thirty-four years after Pilate had left the country and presumably thirty-seven years after the death of Jesus bar Joses.
Galilean Zealots under John ben Levi of Giscala took over the temple compound and began performing the daily sacrifices. The high priest at the time, Ananus ben Ananus, rather objected to his deposition and summoned his own adherents to attack, including a sizable force of Idumaean forced proselytes. Several Galilean priests were killed in the act of sacrifice, their blood then mixing with that of the animals.
I once thought that the reference in the Gospel according to John 5:2 (“Now there is at Jerusalem by the sheep market a pool, which is called in the Hebrew tongue Bethesda, having five porches.”) to a five-sided pool was an anachronism because I thought surely a pagan temple would not have been built in Jerusalem and didn’t exist until Aelia Capitolina replaced the destroyed city starting in 132 CE.
However, I recently learned that not only did the Asclepion, the five-sided pool sacred to Asclepius, god of healing, exist, but also a pool sacred to Fortuna, the goddess of luck, both of which were immediately adjacent to the Serapeum, or temple to the syncretic mystery god Serapis. These were built to service the garrison at the Fortress Antonia.
In the Mount Olivet discourse in Matthew 24:3-51, Luke 21:3-38, and in the Gospel according to Mark 13:3-37, which they place toward the end of the week after the triumphal entry on (Palm) Sunday, Jesus describes for the disciples signs of the end.
The key passages for the purposes of this essay are the following:
Matthew 24:15 When ye therefore shall see the abomination of desolation, spoken of by Daniel the prophet, stand in the holy place, (whoso readeth, let him understand:)
Mark 13:14 But when ye shall see the abomination of desolation, spoken of by Daniel the prophet, standing where it ought not, (let him that readeth understand,) then let them that be in Judaea flee to the mountains.
Luke 21:20 And when ye shall see Jerusalem compassed with armies, then know that the desolation thereof is nigh. Then let them which are in Judaea flee to the mountains.
Though the location of this discourse takes place on the Mount of Olives in the first two and in the temple courtyard in the third, the discourse is virtually identical in all three except for those verses just cited.
The problem with the first two is the alleged incident of the “abomination of desolation”. This alleged incident, the setting up of an idol of Zeus in the Holy of Holies in the Jerusalem temple, took place in 167 BCE. So, the 33 CE almost two centuries later was a little late to be warning people about this happening. The Luke reference is much more plausible, a reference, no doubt in hindsight, since the Siege of Jerusalem occurred in 70 CE.
The Passion Play
The accounts of the Passion follow a script written for the ceremonies of other dying-and-resurrecting gods such as Serapis or Adonis or Mithras, all of whom were worshipped in 1st century CE Palestine. Indeed, a temple to Serapis and Isis stood in Samaria-Sebaste from the 3rd century BCE and the just mentioned temple to Serapis (who had by this time also absorbed Asclepius) stood just outside Jerusalem.
There are numerous problems with any one of these accounts, several with them altogether.
First, Ananus would not have presided at any trial, for reason given below, and a trial at night would have violated Jewish and Roman law.
Pontius Pilatus truly did not give a damn what the local population thought. He was brutal and merciless. Indeed, he was recalled in 36 CE for the brutality with which he put down a mild protest by the Samaritans to be a separate Roman province from Iudea. He certainly would not have been begging the Jews to accept Jesus bar Joses instead of Jesus bar Abbas; he instead would have crucified them side-by-side.
Speaking of which, there was no custom to release a condemned prisoner at the season of Passover. Even if there had been, those eligible would not have included political rebels.
When Pilatus washed his hands, that was something done at the pronunciation of every death sentence in Roman jurisprudence.
When Pilatus washed his hands, that was something done at the pronunciation of every death sentence in Roman jurisprudence.
Only Matthew and Mark mention scourging before the crucifixion, and this was indeed frequently a feature of crucifixion. Jesus bar Joses was not being singled out. The purpose behind it was to hasten death, the same reason that legs of the crucified were sometimes broken to prevent the condemned from lingering.
If Jesus bar Joses did, in fact, die a mere six hours after being crucified, it really was a miracle. Two to three days was more usual, sometimes even up to a week. The men would hang on the cross, thirsting, sunburned, blinded by the sun, bitten by insects, their eyes plucked out by birds, worms and other creepy crawling creatures eating parts of their bodies, all that time.
Unlike the usual portrayals, the feet of the crucified were usually no more than a foot or two off the ground. They were completely naked, no loincloths allowed. They hung until they died and frequently until they rotted, sabbaths and other festivals or solemn occasions notwithstanding.
Crucifixion was hardly unique, even in Palestine. According to Josephus, 2000 were crucified after the post-Herod the Great revolt in 4 BCE. Like the 6000 who were crucified after the Spartacus revolt of 73-71 BCE.
The supposed charge that Jesus bar Joses had allegedly claimed to be King of the Jews was in itself not enough to get him condemned. He might have been laughed at. Herod the Great was King of the Jews 38 BCE-4 BCE and Agrippa I King of the Jews 41-44 CE. What the Christian gospels ignore is the fact that the Messiah ben David was foretold to defeat the last ruler of the “fourth empire” (Rome, from Daniel, preceded by the Chaldeans, Iranians, and Macedonians), and after enumerating his sins from his throne in Jerusalem, kill him with a sword.
THAT would have certainly caused a man to be sentenced to death as a rebel. However, Jesus bar Joses not only repeatedly denied being such a messiah but according to all four gospels foretold his own death time and time again. Such was supposed to be the role not of the Messiah ben David but of the Messiah ben Joseph.
Acts of the Apostles
Just a couple of notes about the earlier chapters of this work.
Ananus ben Seth (Annas) wouldn’t have presided over the Great Sanhedrin in The Acts of the Apostles) for Peter’s and John’s trial. The head of the Great Sanhedrin after 191 BCE, when the body lost confidence in high priest Simon II bar Onias, was the Nasi. The Nasi didn’t preside over trials when the Sanhedrin met as a criminal court, but given his history and the reasons for his deposition, the Romans would never have allowed Ananus to be Av Beit Din.
Nor was Ananus high priest, that role belonging to Joseph ben Caiaphas.
Gamaliel’s speech to the Sanhedrin calling for restraint says that the revolt of Judas the Galilean in 6 CE over the tax and census issue followed that of Theudas, which Josephus places in 47 CE.