The deaths of James and Simon, continued (3): Did Peter survive? Did Luke have a motive for allowing Peter to survive
in his literary account? Yes: he needed Peter’s presence at the Apostolic Council in Jerusalem: Acts 15:1ff.
It is possible that the legend that Peter went to Rome and was martyred there may already have existed in Luke’s time.
The tradition that Luke found probably reported Peter’s death. After all, Luke only has very weak witnesses for his version that Peter was saved.
The doubt: Peter himself doubts; he believes he is seeing a vision rather than that he would actually be saved. The church community he approaches also doubts and initially refuses to open the door, because they think Peter is a ghost (his angel).
Luke’s only witness is Rhoda the slave. But women and slaves were bad witnesses in classical times, because it was assumed that they would always speak in favour of their husbands or masters. The fact that Luke quotes this witness shows how desperately weak his position is in this case.
According to the principle of Occam’s razor, Josephus’ version is the right one: Peter died with James and in the same way. This argument is also supported by the fact that Luke does not provide any more narratives about Peter after this event: the Peter tradition ends here.
And according to Paul in Gal. 2:9, it wasn’t Peter, but Cephas, Peter’s successor as leader of Peter’s church, who was present at the Apostolic Council.
Conclusion: Peter was crucified by the governor Tiberius Alexander in 46 AD alongside James.
The deaths of James and Simon, continued (2): the manner of execution. In my opinion, Josephus
had no reason to alter facts that were not particularly important to him.
Why does he call James and Simon sons of Judas? As already mentioned, Josephus considered the Christians to be part of the Jewish insurgent movement that began with Judas the Galilean and was to end in the Great Revolt against the Romans in 66 – 70 AD. Sons simply means followers, not biological sons.
The deaths of James and Simon, continued (1): the facts. Acts 11:28 and 12:1ff, as well as Ant. 20.5.2 describe a famine
followed by the executions of a James and a Simon, both identified as sons of Judas by Josephus, while in Acts 12:1ff Simon is given the Christian name Peter.
The difference: Josephus describes the crucifixion by the governor Tiberius Alexander in 46 AD while Luke reports the beheading by the Jewish king Agrippa I in 44 AD.
I consider that both accounts refer to the same event, with some differences. Aspects in favour of this view: the names of the executed /imprisoned men are identical; the situation is identical, with the preceding famine – we should envisage food riots and the execution of the leaders; the time is almost identical.
Why does Josephus’ account of the Samaritan Messiah (Ant. 18.4.1) relate to Jesus? What details in the accounts are identical
in both Josephus and the Gospels? What differences are there? How can they be explained? Identical details are the Roman Pilate, the insurrection, the execution by crucifixion, (assumed in Josephus due to insurrection being given as the reason for the condemnation).
Other similarities include: the executed man’s guilt is doubtful (Josephus mentions this immediately after his account); the date (in Josephus, this can be deduced from the end of his period in office), the exact date is not given in the Gospels, but the period of time can be deduced from the fact that it was during Pilate’s term of office.
Pontius Pilate, the prefect of Judea and Samaria, saw Jesus’ triumphal journey as an anti-Roman insurgency; he scattered the crowds
and had Jesus and the other leaders crucified on the holy mountain Gerizim in Samaria in 36 AD. Josephus writes (Ant. 18.4.1):
The Samaritan nation too was not exempt from disturbance. For a man who made light of mendacity and in all his designs catered to the mob, rallied them, bidding them go in a body with him to Mount Gerizim, which in their belief is the most sacred of mountains…
Equal civil rights for all new citizens of Tiberias
are attested both by Josephus and in Jesus’ parables in the New Testament: Ant. 18, 2, 3; Matt. 20:1-16; 22:1-14 par.
Jesus’ model for a ruler in Galilee envisaged a strong monarch and was supra-national in conception; it granted the same civil rights to Jews and Greeks, and to the upper and lower classes of society.
Roman rule denied Herod the chance to expand his power by military means; the money he saved
through not building up armies and going to war was invested in great buildings in Jerusalem, Caesarea Maritima and other locations in Palestine. The most significant of these projects was the construction of the Herodian temple in Jerusalem, including the expansion of the temple plateau.
Herod was an absolute monarch. He was bound to Rome as a client king in foreign policy terms, but within his kingdom he had absolute power. His historical image is initially based on the positive depiction of him as an active ruler by Nikolaos of Damascus, whose writings are partly preserved as copies in Josephus’ account of The Jewish War. (Bell. 1, 31-2, 116).
When the situation in Rome changed and Emperor Nero appeared as a tyrant, Herod was also presented as a tyrant by Josephus (Antiquities of the Jews) and in Matt. 2.
Jesus, the Christians and Christian tradition are actually mentioned by Josephus in the following texts:
1. Ant. 18, 4, 1: the Samaritan Messiah
2. Ant. 18, 3, 4: the temptation of Paulina
3. Ant. 19, 1, 13: Theatre performance in Rome in the presence of the Jewish King Agrippa I on 24 January 41, the day the Emperor Caligula was murdered
3.1. Crucifixion of a prince (hgemwn/hegemon),
3.2. Pantomime: The fable depicting the incest between Myrrha and her father Cinyras
4. Ant. 20, 5, 2: The governor Tiberius Alexander orders the crucifixion of James and Simon, the sons of Judas the Galilean.
5. Ant. 18, 2, 3: the newly founded city of Tiberias is settled.
Text No. 1 relates to Jesus’ execution; Nos. 2 and 3.2 are polemics against the Christian tradition of the virgin birth; No. 3.1 is an early performance of Jesus’ crucifixion as a play; No. 4 is an alternative report to Acts 12:1ff; No. 5 shows the historical context of the parable of the wedding banquet: Matt. 22:1-14; Luke 14:15-24.
When talking about Jesus and the early Christians, Josephus does not use the New Testament vocabulary we are familiar with
because as we know, he was not a Christian. However, if you search Josephus’ writings for evidence of his opposition to the Christians, you will find it. Josephus attacks Jesus and Christian tradition in many ways.
In his Antiquities of the Jews (Ant.) 18, 1, 1-6, Josephus gives a report about the Jewish sects, where the Christians are not mentioned.
However, the Christians only appear to be missing. For Josephus, the Christians were part of the rebellious movement of Judas the Galilean, and it was therefore unnecessary to mention them specifically. Compare Peter’s denial of Christ in Mark 14:66ff, where Peter is identified in v. 70 as the Galilean (= follower of Jesus = follower of Judas).
The traditional narrative about Flavius Josephus and his significance as a source for Jesus’ life and for the origins of Christianity states that if Josephus had known about Jesus and the Christians,
of course he would have mentioned them. Since he did not mention them, the Christian sect was obviously so insignificant that he did not know about them or at least did not consider them worth mentioning.
The Testimonium Flavianum (Ant. 18, 3, 3) is rightly considered to be a Christian insertion. So the only historical information about Christian issues in Josephus is the mention of the stoning of the Lord’s brother James in Ant. 20, 9, 1 and the report about John the Baptist in Ant. 18, 5, 2.
I advocate the following opinion on this topic: as early as under Emperor Claudius (41-54 AD) the well-known edict already existed stating that the emperor drove the Jews out of Rome because they were causing a disturbance, spurred on by a certain Chrestos (=Christ): see Suetonius, Claudius, 25, 4; compare Acts of the Apostles 18:2. We may assume that Josephus had plenty of contacts in Rome, and he must have been aware of the Roman Christian community to which Paul had already addressed an epistle.