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Planning and building the new capital of Tiberias was the masterpiece of the government of Jesus.

Volcano Pichincha, crater in the crater
Volcano Pichincha, crater in the crater

For this brilliant feat Jesus got the honorary title tekton (tektwn). This Greek word is usually translated as “carpenter”, but here it means “architect”. Those building a new city or a new capital would like make many things better than before: they would like to leave old things and ways behind.

The inspiration behind this was the idea of the New Jerusalem. In the Jewish capital Jerusalem the great Temple, the house of God, had been under construction for more than forty years.

Herod Antipas and Jesus wanted to build a city for the people without forgetting to worship the divine powers. The new capital was built in record time, if not in three days as in John 2, 19.

From the year 20 CE there are the first coins of Herod Antipas with the inscription Tiberias and the reed, which was a symbol of the city by the Sea of Galilee. The coins celebrated the new capital.

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Ad 3: The fall from the parapet of the temple reminds us of the fall at the stoning.

Volcano Pichincha, morning fog in the crater
Volcano Pichincha, morning fog in the crater

Aesop, the teller of fables, was thrown down a hill by the Delphinians because of alleged sacrilege (vita 141); the same fate threatens Jesus in Luke 3, 29. The matter is as follows: until Herod Antipas’ days the lower classes were under the jurisdiction of the aristocracy.

The tetrarch changed this: he took over the jurisdiction of all people in his country. Thus he could guarantee civil rights for all the inhabitants. Jesus was given immunity: he was to enforce the described change of jurisdiction in Galilee.

So the Jewish aristocracy lost a part of its influence over the non-Jewish lower-class people of the province.

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6.     Assumption of office

Appointing Jesus as governor in Galilee and Perea turned out to be a clever move

Volcano Pichincha, international roped party
Volcano Pichincha, international roped party

for Herod Antipas. If Jesus failed, Antipas could dismiss him as guilty and himself had a clean record. If Jesus succeeded, the tetrarch could give himself credit for success. The extended Temptation in Matt 4 and Luke 4 can be seen as an employment contract.

Three points were agreed: 1. bread, 2. rule, 3. personal security. In the narration Jesus himself is the beneficiary, but in the historical situation he was intended to give these benefits to the inhabitants of Galilee.

It was a question of securing the reign of Herod Antipas, to reduce the power of the aristocracy and gain the lower classes as a power basis for the monarchy.

Ad 1: In the Ancient World the number one rule for keeping power was the following: avoid famine riots. In premodern societies the social policy was to supply grain in sufficient quantity and to keep prices low.

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4.     Unemployment

When Herod the Great became seriously ill, the Roman studies of the Jewish princes

Volcano Pichincha, ascent to the crater rim
Volcano Pichincha, ascent to the crater rim

came to an end. At the end of year 5 or the begin of 4 BCE the princes and Jesus travelled to Judaea. In 7 BCE, as the conjunction of the planets Jupiter and Saturn announced to the astrologers a change of ruler in Palestine, they fortunately stayed in Rome and so escaped the distrust of Herod the Great in his old age.

Two half-brothers of the princes, the sons of Mariamne, Alexander and Aristobul, were out of luck: Herod had them executed for flimsy reasons in 7 BCE. In the gospel according to Matthew this episode turned up as the massacre of the infants of Bethlehem, Matt 2, 16-17. There Jesus escaped the massacre too, this time because of the flight into Egypt (= Rome).

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3.     Chronology

1.  According to John 2,20: 8,57 after 46 years of building the temple, in 27 CE Jesus

Volcano Pichincha, ascent to the crater rim
Volcano Pichincha, ascent to the crater rim

was about 50. Thus he was born in 24/23 BCE. This corresponds to Luke 2,1ss, Matt 2,1ss and Luke 1, 5, which say that Jesus was born under the rule of the emperor Augustus and during the reign of King Herod the Great.

2. The highly political office which was offered to Jesus was the office of the governor of Galilee in the ministry of Herod Antipas. In 6 CE Jesus took over this office.

At that time he was 30; this was his first public office, Luke 3, 23. 6 CE was the crisis of the sons of Herod the Great. Then, after popular disturbances, Archelaos was banished to Gaul by the emperor.

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According to Josephus, Ant. 17, 1, 3 in about 9 BCE Archelaus, Herod Antipas and Philip

Volcano Pichincha, 4794 m, Ecuador
Volcano Pichincha, 4794 m, Ecuador

were sent to Rome for further education. There they stayed privately with a family, maybe with Asinius Pollio.

I imagine that Jesus, being in the entourage of the princes, also went to Rome and got the same education. Herod the Great and his successors needed competent experts for the administration and Rome-educated diplomats who were loyal to the Herod family.

For the Romans it was important to educate members of the elites of the subject nations, who could transmit Roman principles of government to their homelands.

They studied the artes liberales, subjects for free-born young men, which did not require hard manual work: grammar, rhetoric, dialectics, arithmetic, geometry, astronomy (which included astrology), music theory.

 In Rome, the Jewish students had to learn Latin, the language of the rulers of the world.

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2.     Childhood, education

In 24/23 BCE Jesus was born and underwent a typical aristocratic education.

Cotopaxi Volcano 5897 m, Ecuador
Cotopaxi Volcano 5897 m, Ecuador

Until he was seven, he lived in the care of his mother and her servants and was looked after with brothers, sisters and other children.

At the age of seven Jesus started at an elementary school at the court of Herod the Great, where he was educated with the sons of Herod and other sons of aristocrats. Here Jesus met Manaen, the later Christian presbyter in Antiochia, Acts 13, 1.

Whereas in his mother’s house Aramaic and Greek were spoken, in the school only Greek was spoken. The syllabus included recitations of Homer and other classical authors of Greek antiquity, reading, writing, calculating, geometry, playing music, and physical education.

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4.  The Armenia crisis leads us into the time when the Samaritan prophet

Oldtimerbus, Quito, Ecuador
Oldtimerbus, Quito, Ecuador

appeared, Josephus, Ant. 18,4,1. The death of Jesus as a Messiah and the riot over the Samaritan prophet must be the same event. In 36 CE Jesus was crucified as the Sama­ritan prophet.

5.  The proclamation of Jesus as Messiah in Caesarea Philippi is only plausible if Jesus was qualified for the job as a governor by his education or by being from an aristocratic family.

6.  Therefore, this is how I understand the Temptation (Matt 4, Luke 4): in 6 CE, in the crisis of the Herodians, when Archelaus in Jerusalem lost his job and was banished to Gaul, Herod Antipas offered Jesus the job of governor of Galilee, and Jesus accepted the offer and took over the duty. Later the church claimed that Jesus had refused the offer.

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1.     Reconstruction

Which premises should we start out on, when we reconstruct

Oldtimerbus, Quito, Ecuador
Oldtimerbus, Quito, Ecuador

the biography of Jesus? Which basic conclusions can be made?

1.  Jesus was crucified as a Messiah by Pilate. This is the most thoroughly proven fact in the biography of Jesus. A sensible recon­struction of his biography can only start from this point.

2. Jesus was proclaimed Messiah in Caesarea Philippi, Mark 8,29. It makes sense only after the death of the tetrarch Philip in 34 CE.

3. The Armenia crisis happened in 35 CE. The people in the Orient, who were hostile to Rome, saw their chance to fight the Romans and hoped for Parthian support.

It would be plausible if Jesus was proclaimed Messiah by Parthian-backed people as a king to counter the Romans and the Herodians.

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3. In 36 CE the Armenia crisis happened and Roman power in the Orient was on the edge.

Equator diploma 15.8.1989
Equator diploma 15.8.1989

Here Jesus took over the leadership of a messianic revolt against the Romans. Pilate crucified all the leaders of the revolt, Luke 23, 32, Josephus, Ant. 18, 4, 1, whereas he spared the supporters.

4. A famous rite in the antique mysteries is the rite to die and to rise again. This rite and the connected considerations were transferred to Jesus.

5.  Not at all. The tales of the miracles are parables in the tradition of the literature of antiquity: they interpret the gospel of Jesus.

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Today a new theme begins:

Was Jesus Governor of Galilee?

A New Approach to the Historical Jesus

Equatorial Monument near Quito, Ecuador
Equatorial Monument near Quito, Ecuador

Quick info

Six questions

1.  How old was Jesus as he began his public ministry, 30 as according to Luke or 50 as according to John?

2. Why was Jesus revered?

3.  Why did Jesus die on the Cross?

4.  How did faith in the resurrection develop after the death of Jesus?

5.  Did the Gospels tell of the miracles of Jesus as historical facts?

6.  Did Jesus come from the lower middle class?

Here are the correct answers:

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5.14.4.
The writer of Mark’s Gospel adopted stories about Jesus handed down in the Jesus Groups

Istanbul, Theodosian Walls, gate
Istanbul, Theodosian Walls, gate

led by James, John and Peter. Cf. in detail Johannes Neumann, War Markus ein Dichter? in: Neumann.: War Jesus Statthalter von Galiläa?, p. 43-92, here p. 51-62.

5.14.5.
The evangelist adopted stories about Jesus from Galilee that originated as oral traditions handed down in the individual churches. The Jesus stories from Jerusalem are based on interpretations of Jesus’ death by the individual churches and their cultic application.

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5.13.7.
In the Jewish interpretation, Jesus as sacrifice is compared with the sacrifice of the Passover lamb: in John’s Gospel

Athens, mosaic: Madonna
Athens, mosaic: Madonna

Jesus dies at the time the Passover lambs are sacrificed, as a Passover lamb: cf. Paul in 1 Cor. 5:7.

5.13.8.
In another Jewish interpretation, that of the Synoptics, Jesus set up the Last Supper as a memorial meal for his death, in the form of the Passover meal.

Here too, parallels are drawn between Jesus’ death and that of the Passover lamb: the meal itself appears to be taken as a memorial meal, although the words of interpretation refer back to the self-sacrifice of the God of which Jesus is a part according to John 1:1ff.

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5.13.3.
Anyone in classical times who took part in a violent rebellion aiming to kill the representatives of public order

Patmos, Monastery of St. John, monks
Patmos, Monastery of St. John, monks

forfeited his life if the rebellion failed. To that extent, all those who took part in Jesus’ rebellion were guilty and faced death when Pilate conquered them.

However, Pilate only crucified Jesus and a few other leaders; most of the simple participants were able to go home. In that sense Jesus (and the other leaders) did indeed die on behalf of his many followers.

The statement of faith died for us is based on this historical experience of people who took part in Jesus’ movement.

5.13.4.
This experience of the actual representative death of the noble, therefore godlike, Jesus was interpreted in different ways in the early Christian groups. One version was the Persian interpretation of God’s self-sacrifice as known to the groups in the Mithras cult.

This interpretation is expressed in the words explaining the Last Supper in Matt 26:26-28par; This is my body, this is my blood.

5.13.5.
Paul and his tradition put it in a similar way: Christ died for us, for our sins: Romans 5:6-8; 1 Cor. 15:3.

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V  13   The myth of Christ’s self-sacrifice

5.13.1.
The dominant narrative about the origin of the Christian myth of Christ’s self-sacrifice can be summarised as follows: religious geniuses

Patmos, Monastery of St. John, visitors
Patmos, Monastery of St. John, visitors

have emerged at various times in history, who announce God’s will to people: for example lawgiver Moses and the prophets in the Old Testament.

Jesus of Nazareth appeared at the dawn of the new age and proclaimed God’s kingdom. People felt his religious power and the divine wisdom in his pronouncements and formulated the idea that Jesus was the son of God, in line with the mythical ideas of their time.

When Jesus died on the cross they believed that God had sacrificed his son Jesus for their sins, as the Jews sacrificed Passover lambs for their sins.

5.13.2.
I advocate the following thesis on the origin of the Christian myth: Jesus was Prince Antipas’ deputy, which made him equal to a god in the eyes of the people. Compare the statement of Phil. 2:6; Jesus, who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God (KJV).

Jesus’ divine figure and his equality with God are not presumption; they do not simply express the community’s faith; they are primarily the description of a social reality, a social class, that of the nobility. Jesus belonged to this social class by birth and through his position as governor.