🔼The name Dalmanutha in the Bible
The name Dalmanutha occurs only once in the Bible. In Mark 8:10, Jesus arrives there by boat as he travels on the Sea of Galilee, right after he miraculously fed 4,000 people with seven loaves of bread and a few fish. The problem is that the gospel of Matthew tells the same story, but has Jesus arrive in Magadan (Matthew 15:39).
We know the region of Galilee of the first century very well because many classical writers discussed the goings on there. But neither Dalmanutha nor Magadan ever gets mentioned by any one them. This leads some scholars to believe that we're looking at a classical scribal botch and Matthew meant to refer to the well-known city of Magdala. But that doesn't explain Mark's Dalmanutha, and other scholars suppose that Matthew and Mark are both doing something more than just mention an inconsequential hamlet.
🔼Magdala, Magadan or Dalmanutha?
One theory supposes that copyists accidentally inserted Magdala for Magadan in Matthew's original version. The other way around is less likely because Magdala — or more complete: Magdala-nunayya, or Magdala of the Fish, see the name Nun — was certainly an existing town at the shore of Galilee, possible even the same as the Old Testament Migdal-el. A hypothetical sleepy scribe could be expected to change the name of an obscure town for a familiar one, but not vice versa.
Another theory supposes that Matthew and Mark originally wrote of Magdala but that later editors changed it to Magadan and Dalmanutha for reasons we shall explore below. Thirdly, it's possible that Mark and Matthew indeed wrote of Magadan and Dalmanutha and this for deliberate but complicated reasons.
But that leaves the riddle of the actual references to Magadan and Dalmanutha. The evangelists clearly knew that they were writing for a potential audience that was spread out over a huge geographic area. Why would Mark bother to have Jesus travel to a place that perhaps only the locals would have heard of? And if Jesus really went to Dalmanutha and Mark indeed felt it was important that he mentioned this place by its name, why wouldn't he help his audience by saying where Dalmanutha was, or near which better known town? Why would Matthey, subsequently, change Mark's Dalmanutha for an equally unknown name, without further references to where it might be?
🔼Pharisees, Sadducees and the Request for a Sign
The only thing we know about our mystery place is that it appears to be the place where Jesus rebuked the Pharisees and Sadducees for asking for a sign. The question this immediately raises is: what were these two rivaling factions doing in Nowhere Ville?
The Pharisees and Sadducees were based in Jerusalem, close to the schools, libraries and temple, and although they certainly went on field trips (Matthew 15:1), why would they have followed Jesus to Magadan/Dalmanutha after having been brushed off? (15:12).
The obvious but perhaps contestable solution would be to assume that neither is referring to a geographical place but are giving a "sign," just as the Pharisees and Sadducees requested. And as we're about the dive deeper into this mystery, note that apart from the names Magadan and Dalmanutha, the only two substantial differences between the stories of Matthew and Mark is that Matthew (Magadan) speaks of both Pharisees and Sadducees and links the sign to Jonah, whereas Mark (Dalmanutha) only speaks of Pharisees and does not link the sign to anything (Matthew 16:4, compare with Mark 8:12).
🔼Proposed etymologies of Dalmanutha
Over the centuries, many scholars have tried to explain the name Dalmanutha. John Lightfoot (17th century, England) and Heinrich Ewald (19th century, Germany) derived it from צלמון (which occurs in the Bible as the name Zalmon), which may have sounded like Dalmanutha when an Aramaic-speaker or Galilean said it. Lightfoot and Ewald thought it meant Shady Place.
Rabbi Yehoseph Schwarz (Das Heilige Land, 1859, Germany) derived Dalmanutha from the name טליסאן, Teliman, which was the name of a cave, also known as Talmanutha. This cave appeared later to not be in the vicinity of our scene, and this explanation is now largely abandoned.
Several scholars working in the mid-nineteenth century (Donaldson, Hams, Nestle) proposed complicated and tiresome etymologies through combining Greek phrases with Aramaic verbs and served them on the tray of misunderstanding copyists. In his first edition of Grammatik (1905), the German theologian Gustaf Dalman proposed an etymological link between Δαλμανουθα (dalmanoutha) and Μαγδαλουθα (magdaloutha), which in turn he took from מגדלות (magdalot), the plural of מגדל (migdal), meaning tower. This proposal met with considerable opposition and Dalman omitted it in future editions.
None of these theories were convincing enough the settle the debate. Their most fatal flaw, however, was their failure to demonstrate contextual urgency. Allowing for unlimited verbal degradation, we could derive Dalmanutha from the Swahili word for Moscow, but that still wouldn't explain why the Swahili name for Moscow would be required in Mark's gospel.
🔼Watts to the Rescue
Joel L. Watts writes in Mimetic Criticism and the Gospel of Mark (2013): "What if the story of Jesus was meant not just to be told but retold, molded, and shaped into something new, something present by the Evangelist to face each new crisis?". Watts believes that Mark's Dalmanutha is an artificial name, and that it might be a transliteration of an Aramaic phrase (צלמון, tsalmon, after Lightfoot and Ewald), which he takes to mean "the place of widowhood." This Dalmanutha then, proposes Watts, is a metonym for Vespasian's excessively bloody invasion of Galilee, three years before the subsequent destruction of the temple in 70 AD.
Watts' opinion received all the derision that can be expected from a possibly true interpretation and here at Abarim Publications we feel Watts is on to something. But if Watts is right, Mark's Dalmanutha should be expected to be just one manifestation of a literary device that is used across Mark's gospel and preferably the entire gospel genre. And to properly assess the chance for that, we should first look at the situation in the Roman province of Judea in the first century.
🔼Judea in the First Century AD
The problem with telling the story of Judea in the first century is the same problem the evangelists faced: where to begin? All key events were preceded and are explained by other key events; some of these events were of great influence but happened long ago, and other events were relatively minor but happened recently. In our day and age we like to tell our histories factual and chronologically, but that is a relatively recent invention and certainly not popular in the first century. Its greatest flaw is that it does not automatically arrange events according to their effect, and that means that chronological history naturally omits the most important element.
An indication that the evangelists wrote in a genre that utilized historic perspective (a giant in the distance is smaller than a dwarf up close) may lie in the reversed chronological order of Theudas and Judas of Galilee (Acts 5:36-37; the so-called Theudas problem). Another challenge the evangelists faced was that they were not simply telling history, but the first century rise and meaning of Jesus of Nazareth, whose nature is still debated today.
"For at least the first three centuries of their common lives, Judaism in all of its forms and Christianity in all of its forms were part of one complex religious family, twins in a womb, contending with each other for identity and precedence, but sharing with each other the same spiritual food" (Daniel Boyarin Dying For God, 1999)
And this Jesus-Jewish faction shared the Judaic intellectual arena with:
- The Pharisees in several separate and rivaling communities all over Palestine.
- Those of the Fourth Philosophy; possibly a Pharisee offshoot.
- The Sadducees, probably separate factions.
- At least two separate schools of the Essenes; John the Baptist possibly having been one.
- The Therapeutae; possibly an Essene offshoot.
- The Samaritans who had their own, adapted Pentateuch and temple on Mount Gerizim.
- The Zealots, a theocratic group with a strong militant dominance. They believed that they should pay tax only to God and not to Rome.
- The Sicarii, a Zealot offshoot, specialized in close quarter assassination.
- Several other groups.
And those who professed forms of Judaism were at constant blows with Palestinian proponents of various forms of Hellenism, Zoroastrianism, possibly also proto-Gnosticism and God knows what else (see Acts 2:9-11). And all of them had Rome breathing down their necks, demanding respect to the empire through mandatory religious rituals and emperor worship.
🔼The Caesarean Bird Incident
The Roman historian Josephus (who mostly used the freshly invented factual and chronological way of story telling) wrote that when Cestius Gallus presided over the Roman province of Syria (66-67 AD), Caesarean Jews of untold affiliation worshipped in a synagogue owned by a Greek fellow who delighted in pestering them financially (JW.II.14.3 and on). Then one Sabbath, "a certain man of Caesarea, of a seditious temper" decided to engage in a pagan ritual involving an earthen vessel and the sacrifice of birds at the entrance of the synagogue.
That meant that the synagogue had become ritually polluted, which "provoked the Jews to an incurable degree." Some of them went to see their governors but others took to rioting, and they were soon met by folks who were violently protesting Roman tax laws.
The unrest culminated into an attack on Roman citizens in Jerusalem and Cestius Gallus marched his legion XII Fulminata — the twelfth legion "armed with lightning" — down from Syria to try to occupy and pacify Jerusalem. This failed, upon which Gallus moved the Lightning Legion west to the coast counting on the arrival of reinforcements. The rebels followed and pelted the Romans with stones and arrows at every turn.
🔼The Battle of Beth-horon and the Great Sanhedrin
At the narrow pass of Beth-horon, the Lightning Legion was trapped in an ambush and decimated by the rebels; 6,000 legionnaires were killed (66 AD). News of the unprecedented defeat of an entire legion swept across the region and while the evangelists were developing their narrative on Christ, the inspired Palestinians took to arms and began to fight each other.
News of the defeat also reached Rome (where Nero was still emperor), where it was assessed as one of the greatest defeats in Roman history, and that's how Vespasian and his huge army came to be in Galilee. His mission was to restore order and although his campaign is rightfully remembered as bloody, it should be well understood that he also offered peace and relative autonomy to whoever stopped fighting and started talking. That's how in 70 AD, right before the destruction, Johanan son of Zakai was able to move the Great Sanhedrin safely from Jerusalem to Jabneh, and in 80 AD Gamaliel to move it to Usha in Galilee. Johanan argued his move by saying that he would hate to see the Torah fall into the hands of robbers. He was smuggled out of Jerusalem in a coffin and was able to meet with general Vespasian and negotiate safe passage for his scholars and their books. He also predicted that Vespasian would be emperor, which was a prediction upon which the historian Joseph(us) ben Matiyahu (or Matthias) would later sail to safety himself.
The effects upon western civilization of Johanan son of Zakai can barely be overstated. Much more than the givers in and much more than the toughers out, the fragile balance between compromise and survival perpetuated the kind of thinking that would eventually mature into the self-evident freedoms of artistic creativity and scientific rigor of today, and that is the Christ who rose from the grave. This newly located Sanhedrin, though divorced from Jerusalem and the temple, became the undisputed hub for Jewish matters. Judaisms of all sorts, including the Jesus movement, were in a grave state of crisis. People from all over the Diaspora (and see our article on the name Nazareth) sent letters and messengers to the Sanhedrin to debate, inquire and solve the conundrum of a Judaism severed from its umbilical. And all over the Diaspora Jews received replies and replied to those.
Without the rescued Sanhedrin, Jewry, and thus the Jesus movement, would not have survived the first century, and through Johanan's last words it's overly clear that one of their central topics was the Messiah. With his dying breath he said that the Messiah would be a son of Hezekiah, who was the king of Judah who prevented destruction by Assyria by surrendering the gold and silver of the temple (2 Kings 18:14-16), an obvious reference to the principle of a great price for a greater gain, which was also an important message of Josephus.
🔼Josephus to the Rescue
The Roman historian Flavius Josephus started out his life as Joseph son of Matthias. He had been an Essene for a while and a Pharisee since the age of nineteen. By the time Vespasian invaded Galilee, Joseph was a Jewish general whose job it was to hold the town of Tiberias. That didn't work so well, and Joseph and forty friends ended up trapped in a cave.
Vespasian sent three men (Paulinos, Gallicanus and later Nicanor) to talk Joseph into surrender (JW.III.8.1). Josephus considered surrender because he had received visions from God and believed he was charged by God to play a certain part in the resolution of the conflict, even though he told God that he would go to them in protest, not "as a deserter of the Jews, but as a minister from thee" (III.8.3). His comrades, however, wouldn't hear of it and threatened to kill him. This posed a problem for Joseph, because he would be a "betrayer of the commands of God, if he died before they were delivered" (III.8.5).
Joseph tried to reason with his men by at length discussing the folly of a futile death relative to living for God under foreign rule. But the men insisted on death, and finally Joseph suggested to draw lots in a system that would have one man kill another (to avoid having to commit suicide), until only one man would remain (a mathematical problem now known as Roman Roulette or Josephus' Problem). That last man was Joseph, but he refused to kill the before last man and they both walked out.
The Romans arrested Joseph and forced him to be a translator and negotiator during the rest of the war. After the war, Joseph became Josephus and was shipped off to Rome, where he became a personal friend of the Flavian imperial dynasty, now calling himself Flavius Josephus. Throughout the first half of the first century AD, the Roman emperors had been thoroughly ridiculous on good days and utterly barbaric on bad ones. The Flavian dynasty appears to have marked a breath of fresh air through the realm, in which the royal court expressed an earnest albeit politically cunning attitude toward humanity. Josephus spent the next few decades writing, being to the Romans exactly what Daniel and had been to the Persians, but most of all what Joseph son of Jacob, the arch-father of the forced both-sides-of-the-fence workers, had been to the Egyptians:
So Pharaoh said to Joseph: "Since God has informed you of all this, there is no one so discerning and wise as you are. You shall be over my house, and according to your command all my people shall do homage; only in the throne I will be greater than you" (Genesis 41:39-41)
Josephus explained much by the names he gave himself, and perhaps Joseph son of Matthias wasn't even his birth name but a reference to the missionary office he had found himself attached to. Note that Judas Maccabee too was a son of Matthias and that the two disciples who were forwarded to replace Judas Iscariot were Joseph and Matthias (Acts 1:23).
Now if any one consider these things, he will find that God takes care of mankind, and by all ways possible foreshows to our race what is for their preservation; but that men perish by those miseries which they madly and voluntarily bring upon themselves; for the Jews, by demolishing the tower of Antonia, had made their temple four-square, while at the same time they had it written in their sacred oracles, "That then should their city be taken, as well as their holy house, when once their temple should become four-square." But now, what did the most elevate them in undertaking this war, was an ambiguous oracle that was also found in their sacred writings, how, "about that time, one from their country should become governor of the habitable earth." The Jews took this prediction to belong to themselves in particular, and many of the wise men were thereby deceived in their determination. Now this oracle certainly denoted the government of Vespasian, who was appointed emperor in Judea. — Flavius Josephus, Jewish Wars VI.5.4)
The importance of all this to students of the Bible is that Josephus' story and take on things was without doubt very well known by everybody in Palestine after 70 AD, including the evangelists. Some scholars even propose that Luke used Josephus' writings as one of his sources (Carrier, Mason). Part of the debate that resulted in the gospels, and which also discussed whether the temple in Jerusalem was essential, was whether or not Vespasian (or the Roman emperor in general) was the Messiah. Paul very obviously takes part in that debate as he ostentatiously applies the signature phrases of Roman imperial theology to Jesus: Lord and Savior, King of Kings, Son of God — a stance that Gustav Deissmann called "a polemical parallelism between the cult of Christ and the cult of Caesar" (see Crossan and Reed, In Search Of Paul).
But note that the issue was not black and white. Christianity, from its earliest beginnings, has never depended on an elite caste of exegetes but depended on the free exchange of ideas between common people upon whom the Spirit of God was superfused. That free exchange depended largely on the degree of political peace in the Roman empire. The emperor's job of keeping that peace was crucially important, in all the senses of that word (see Jeremiah 25:9 and 27:6). The Great Jewish Discussion also attempted to establish whether the emperor was "it" or whether he too served a greater "it." Flavius Josephus was prone to the former, Paul to the latter, but their theologies were as kindred as brothers from one father.
🔼From Galilee to Jerusalem to Egypt to Rome
Despite Josephus' surrender, the fighting in Galilee continued vehemently. This caused a migration of locals southward, and that caused an over-population in Jerusalem, which in turn led to internal fighting. Zealots and other factions present in Jerusalem began to routinely execute people they didn't like, which was everybody else.
Rome, in the mean time, also spiraled into a civil war and news of this reached Galilee. This prompted Vespasian (now proclaimed emperor by some Roman factions, later the Senate itself) to cease his campaign in Galilee and rush his troops to Rome. This was in the Year of the Four Emperors following Nero's suicide. Though in a hurry, Vespasian himself went first to Egypt, to deal with a revolt there and to secure Rome's grain supply, and then went on to Rome. Fortunately for Vespasian, the legions of his opponents were tied up in the Revolt of the Batavi (the Dutch), but when Vespasian finally got hold of the imperial throne, that revolt had culminated into a full fledged Germanic rebellion, just north of Italy.
There wasn't much left of Pax Romana, and the very continuation of the empire was under serious threat. From late 70 AD, Vespasian's main order of business was to beat down all revolts (although Germania was never wholly occupied) and establish peace. To hammer that down, he also demanded a cultic veneration of peace, which became centered on the Templum Pacis in Rome. He invested heavily in a propaganda campaign that included funding various writers, including Flavius Josephus and in the new Flavian Pax Romana he established, the Jesus movement could slowly and painfully develop into a mature movement with the detailed doctrines laid out in the gospels.
Meanwhile in Palestine, Vespasian had left his eldest son Titus in charge of the Roman presence, and he directed his forces south to Jerusalem to deal with the tumult there. By the time he reached and besieged it, the city was in the grip of a horrendous, multi-fronted civil war of its own. When Jerusalem finally fell in 70 AD, there was barely anything left for the Romans to destroy. Josephus even stated that the Zealots, not the Romans, had destroyed the temple and that the Romans had wanted to save the temple (JW.VI.4.3; 6.2). The Greek sophist Philostratus, even reported that Titus refused a victory wreath because be thought that the God of the Jews had punished them and destroyed their temple (Ap.6.29.; around 220 AD).
Still, no army walks into someone else's country for a friendly chit-chat and during the long and boring siege the Romans entertained themselves by crucifying 500 Jewish refugees per day, most of them civilians with their wives and children. Whatever the Zealots were up to, it was their own country, and without the Romans there would have been no siege. The impact of the subsequent destruction of the city and its temple had a magnitude that can not possibly be overstated. To Jews of any affiliation, Jerusalem's destruction virtually meant the end of the world and the destruction of the temple nothing other than the end of their privileged relationship with God. On top of that was the holocaust of unimaginable proportions:
The Roman punishment of the rebellious Jews was savage in the extreme. Close to half of the remaining 1.3 million Jews in Palestine were killed. Jerusalem was given a Roman name and settled with gentiles. Any circumcised person henceforth caught within its walls was to be executed. The remaining impoverished Jewish population when they did not go into exile, were driven northward into the hills of the Galilee. There the rabbis moved their school from Jabneh south of Jaffa on the coast. There in the north the Mishnah was completed. — Norman Cantor The Sacred Chain, 1995
The gospel writers obviously agreed with Josephus in that to the "hosts" of the Word, staying alive was more important than staying free. But they were additionally adamant in their message that neither through the temple in Jerusalem nor through the emperor in Rome, but through Jesus Christ mankind would be saved. It was, after all, "for freedom that Christ had set us free" (Galatians 5:1).
Vespasian knew that the Jews expected their liberator king and Messiah from the house of David, and so, after the fall of Jerusalem, he ordered an empire-wide pogrom to wipe out the descendants of David (according to Eusebius; Church History, III-12, around 300 AD). The Great Jewish Debate responded by declaring that the perpetuation of the Davidic dynasty was secured in their resurrected Lord, who guarded their thoughts and whose love transcended all knowledge (Ephesians 3:19). Rome responded by additionally persecuting the Jews of the Jesus movement, which necessitated their more volatile correspondence to be wrapped in literary layers and laid in the manger of folkloristic entertainment.
🔼The Non-Violence Movement to the Rescue
At the time of the evangelists' writing, the Jewish world was in bloody turmoil. Intellectually, however, the Jews were tasked with explaining how the God of their fathers could be sought and served in the present situation. The synoptic gospels reflect that endeavor and should be understood as part of a larger discussion, that also included Josephus in Rome, and which was conducted in messages that were sent all over the known world. From that same perspective comes Paul's pressing urges in his letter to "Titus" (approx. 63 AD) to submit to rulers and authorities (Titus 3:1, also see 1:6, 1:10, 1:11, 1:14, 1:16, 2:2, 2:6, 2:9, 2:10, 2:14, 3:7, 3:9).
The three synoptic gospels are not the works of three remote individuals, but are reflections of one fiercely important debate that had started long before the war. They can't be dated and their genesis can most aptly be compared with that of a modern Wikipedia article.
If the gospel writers were to manage to get their solutions to the Sanhedrin (liberally assuming they weren't part of it to start with), they would have to impress them with a Scriptural agility of at least their own level. After the destruction of the Temple and the forced displacement of the Sanhedrin, the rabbis were in no mood for chicken soup for the soul. By naming Madagan and Dalmanutha, Matthew and Mark showed their credentials as worthy men of the Book.
If Watts is right and Mark's Dalmanutha is a reference to the horrible beginning of a process of destruction that resulted in what appeared to be the annihilation of future purpose and past efforts, we should expect more of this sign, because the way Watts explains it, it's rather slim. The word צלמון (salmon) occurs in the Bible both as the name of one of David's mighty-men (Zalmon; 2 Samuel 23:28) and that of a mountain (Judges 9:48, Psalm 68:14), and both are less than marginal characters in the Bible. And neither have anything to do with Jonah. Perhaps Watts is right, but perhaps not entirely, and we should look farther and perhaps a bit deeper for a past giant that was still larger than anything in the first century.
🔼Rome's Greatest Problem Since The Punic Wars
Part of the reason why the Jews were so upset in 66 AD was that in 6 AD their beloved country had been annexed into the Roman province of Judea, which also contained Idumea (Edom) and Samaria. And that had to do with taxation laws that were a direct result of the census started by Quirinius in that same year of 6 AD. Now, 6 AD was not a very good year for the Romans.
In 4 AD, Tiberius had moved into Germania, just north of Italy, and subjugated the tribes there. But in 6 AD a tax-related revolt broke out in the province of Illyricum (later Yugoslavia), which bordered Italy in the north. This was near enough to make the Romans very nervous and half of the Roman army was sent with Tiberius to Illyricum to restore the peace.
That created an opportunity for a Germanian named Arminius (who was educated in Rome on Roman warfare) and he led a rebellion against Rome in Germania. In the mean time, the Illyrians fought hard and bloody against the Romans and were not subdued until 9 AD, which was just in time because some time later in 9 AD Arminius defeated the Roman forces in Germania at the battle of Teutoburg Forest. Had the Illyrians held their ground, Arminius would have certainly come to their aid and the Romans would have been defeated.
The Roman historian Suetonius called this "Great Illyrian Revolt" the most difficult conflict faced by Rome since the Punic Wars (16.17), and his colleague Roman historian Marcus Velleius Paterculus spoke of panic breaking out in Rome (2.110-111). But in 9 AD the troubles for Rome were far from over. After the Illyrian revolt the Roman soldiers staged their own full-fledged mutiny. They had been given substandard lands as payment for their service and weren't happy with that, and their discontent reverberated well into the New Testament (Luke 3:14).
🔼The Fate of the Shepherds
Germania was never taken again but Illyricum was forcibly subdued and broken into the provinces of Dalmatia in the south and Pannonia in the north. The name Dalmatia came from the dominant Illyrian tribe of the Dalmatians, whose name in turn came from the Illyrian word for sheep (namely delme, which is also the modern Gheg or north-Albanian word for sheep). The Dalmatians were shepherds.
What is relevant to our story is that even though the Dalmatian cities were finally subdued (and tribes displaced and people murdered and brutalized), the Dalmatians in the countryside maintained their own language, religion and even administrative structures (says Croatian historian Aleksander Stipcevic in Iliri). Not a single soul in post-war first century Palestine would have thought that Mark referred to an obscure village. Everybody would have immediately understood that by mentioning non-existing Dalmanutha (Δαλμανουθα), he was referring to Dalmatia (Δαλματια). Note that Paul had sent "Titus" to Dalmatia (2 Timothy 4:10), and that while he stated that he himself had travelled the "whole cycle" of Illyricum (Romans 15:19), Illyricum had ceased to exist fifty years prior.
The Jesus who the evangelists and early epistlers were developing in their literature was the Word of God that had come to the ancient Israelites and which they were carrying into the new age. The evangelists obviously worked hard to make their literary character of Jesus coincide with the Messianic predictions of the preceding Scriptures, but they also had to display him in such a way that he was relevant to the political situation of their day.
Matthew limits his account to the Semitic basin (from Abraham to Jesus; Matthew 1:1-16). Luke zooms out, expands the scope and displays the story on a world-wide platform (from Jesus to Adam; Luke 3:23-38). But both agree that the Word came to the world through the patriarchs, the kingdom of Israel under David, then through Babylon and especially the Jews' return, and finally Joseph the husband of Mary, whose crucial contribution to the birth of the Word was limited to providing security for Mary (Matthew 2:13).
Had Jesus' actual human ancestry been of any importance, it was annulled by his childless death. And so it wasn't, and the evangelists weren't referring to human individuals but to their legacies — the evolution of wisdom, if you will — and simultaneously to the rescue that had been going on since the age of the patriarchs: the gift of salvation (John 4:10, Acts 1:4, Ephesians 2:8), the salvation that came naturally, that was programmed into the fabric of the universe (1 Corinthians 2:7) and that came to pass in the course of time rather than with people's best intentions, compliance or diligent work (Luke 17:20, John 1:15, Galatians 4:4). Mankind's twofold responsibility was to (1) stay alive and (2) accept the gift. This in turn was achieved by (1) practicing practical wisdom and not upsetting governments, and (2) by paying attention to intuition and dreams; the things our minds tell us when our wills have turned off (read our article on the verb חלם, halam, meaning to dream).
Joseph, son of Jacob, was able to go from being cast in a pit by his murderous brothers to being an inmate in Egypt to being the viceroy of Egypt because of his abilities to explain dreams. This Joseph was later able to save his brothers from the famine in Canaan. Likewise exiled Daniel became the second in command and manager of all wise men in Persia because of his oneirocritical talents. It's not specifically told but we may assume that Daniel also represents the intellectual movement that brought about the modern Torah and eventually the great return. Likewise Flavius Josephus went from being in the cave with his death-seeking buddies to being a captive in Rome to being an invaluable chronicler and obvious defender of Jewry to the Roman emperor, because of his abilities to interpret dreams (JW.III.8.3; 8.9 and on).
The Messianic genealogies of Matthew and Luke both end in Joseph, and this Joseph too is able to circumvent danger by interpreting dreams (Matthew 2:13, 2:19, 2:22), and by going to Egypt just as Vespasian had done. Whatever his historic validity, the literary character of Joseph is obviously a continuation of the Joseph-Daniel motif, and his immediate relevance to the gospel's initial audience came from the legacy of Joseph(us) son of Matthias.
The name Matthias comes from the verb נתן (natan), meaning "to give," and that verb reflected the most central message of the non-violent movement, namely that the Word of God could not be brought about by human effort but only as a gift from God (Ephesians 2:8, Titus 3:5, 1 Peter 1:5). In his genealogy of Christ from David onward, Luke incorporates the names of no fewer than six individuals that are derived from that same verb נתן (natan), including that of Nathan the son of David, and an additional three Josephs.
🔼Magi and shepherds
Matthew (whose own name also comes from the verb nathan) emphasizes in his genealogy the royalty of Jesus, which would have been important to the people of the Levant but would have been irrelevant to a world-wide audience. Matthew also relates the birth of Jesus to the relatively local kingdom of Herod the Great (who died in 4 BC), and has Magi from Babylon visit the Holy Infant. To his audience, the star they had observed could only refer to Esther, an obvious female continuation of the Joseph motif, and thus to Josephus in Rome.
As horrible as it was, Herod's subsequent infanticide at Bethlehem would have been irrelevant to almost anyone a few years later (sadly, greater atrocities occurred), if it weren't that Herod the Great had murdered all remaining heirs to the Hasmonean kingdom, thus ending the second dynasty of Judah (something similar was proposed independently by Eisenman and Sanders).
Herod was not a Jew but an Edomite. He permanently terminated the rightful Jewish monarchy by murdering his Hasmonean wife and their sons, and crippled the Judaic wisdom schools by murdering a great many rabbis. He also placed a golden eagle over the entrance of the temple, and it's not inconceivable that decades later the Jews of Caesarea were still deeply peeved by Herod's avian decorations.
Luke relates the birth of Jesus to the world-wide known census of Quirinius (Luke 2:2), and his answer to Matthew's Babylonian magi were "shepherds abiding in the field." Folklore tends to represent the Magi and the shepherds as two different groups of characters but they were of course the same people, but seen from different literary vantage points. Centuries earlier, only a fraction of exiled Jews had partaken in the celebrated return from Persian Babylon. Prior to the return, Jeremiah had maintained a close correspondence with his Babylonian colleagues and had urged them to stay and prosper there (Jeremiah 29:1-7). Hence most of them remained in their new homeland and formed a secondary Jewish tradition that would in time outshine their parent tradition in Jerusalem. The famous Talmud, which is still in use today, was written in Persian Babylon.
The Pharisees appear to have been closely related to the Persian school (Pharisee means "from Persia") and this Levantine movement probably started in "Magi from the east arriving in Jerusalem" as missionaries or at least ambassadors of the remote Persian wisdom schools (see Jeremiah 29:13). Despite the verdicts of folklore, the Pharisees are not the New Testament's proverbial bad guys (that distinction goes to the Sadducees) but are rather the proverbial prodigal son who after all his gallivanting finally made it home: Nicodemus, Gamaliel, Nathanael, Simon the Host (Luke 7:36), most probably Simon of Cyrene, Joseph of Arimathea, the apostle Paul and even the historian Josephus were or had been Pharisees. The dynamic between the Sadducees and the Pharisees — that is: the debate between the indigenous Jewish wisdom schools and their Persian counterparts — is even more spectacularly played out on Golgotha, where the Christ is situated between two murderous criminals; one perpetually insolent and lost, but the other finally contrite and saved.
Matthew wrote for a Jewish audience and respectfully spoke of Magi from the east. Luke wrote for a global audience and spoke of shepherds abiding in the field. Matthew had Jesus feed the 4,000 and then proceed to Magadan. Mark had Jesus feed the 4,000 and then proceed to Dalmanutha, which reminds of Dalmatia, which reminds of the word for shepherds.
Both Matthew (4:1) and Luke (4:1) tell of Jesus' temptation by the devil, which besides a theological discussion is also reminiscent of Josephus' temptation by Paulinos, Gallicanus and Nicanor, and the enduring temptation of the whole non-violence resistance movement to either take up arms or surrender to the lures of Rome luxury. In the closing years of the first century, the Roman historian Tacitus described the Roman tactics of the British campaigns: the Romans would first decentralize society by exterminating the wisdom elite, and then anaesthetize the gullible remnant with fancy clothes, banquets and baths. "Step by step they were led to things which dispose to vice; the lounge, the bath, the elegant banquet. All this in their ignorance they called civilization, when it was but a part of their enslavement" (Agr.1.21). The Latin words for "part of their enslavement" are pars servitutis. The words Seneca used to describe crucifixion are supplicium servile. All this helps to explain the gospel's preoccupation with freedom and slavery (Galatians 5:1).
All gospels tell the story of Jesus calling his disciples, who were known figures of the movement by the time the gospels were written. And in a manner similar to that with which the exiled authors of the modern Torah had explained the origin of the twelve tribes of Israel, they drew the disciples from the broad cultural pallet of Palestine: Peter, also known as Simon, was a fisherman. He was the first called apostle and although his nickname may have reflected Jesus' desire to build his church on a rock, it also reflected the name of the paternal grandfather of Vespasian: a common man who became centurion named Titus Flavius Petro. Peter's brother Andrew was a previous disciple of John the Baptist, which argues an Essene affiliation. The sons of Zebedee, James and John, were obviously militant to some degree but the name Zebedee also comes from a word that means "gift". Their nickname Boanerges may denote affiliations to Aramaic pagan religion. Matthew, also known as Levi, was a tax collector for Rome (the same job was held by Titus Flavius Petro after his discharge from the army). Judas Iscariot was possibly one of the Sicarii. Simon had an epithet which was identical to Zealot. Thomas Didymus was possibly named in honor of Castor and Pollux, the Greek twin gods and patrons of sailors (Acts 28:11), or even Legion VII Gemina, created by Vespasian.
Jesus' triumphal entry into Jerusalem would have been considered an irrelevant if not ridiculous event after the destruction, if Jesus hadn't entered seated on the colt of a mule. Besides deriving much of its meaning from the older Scriptures, it also reflected Vespasian's nickname Mulio (mule-driver), and thus his son Titus.
All synoptic gospels tell of Jesus' cleansing of the temple, which the audience would surely have remembered as the Caesarea bird incident. Mark even adds that besides overturning the tables of the money changers and dove-sellers, Jesus wouldn't allow anyone to carry a vessel through the temple (11:16).
Jesus' remark on the den of robbers fed straight into the remark of Johanan son of Zakai on those who hate the Torah. And where the Zealots urged that no tax was to be paid to Caesar and killed whoever disagreed, Jesus said to give to Caesar what belonged to Caesar (Matthew 22:21).
The Battle of Beth-horon and the destruction of Legion XXII Fulminata, and its detrimental effect, found its obvious discussion in the story of the man called Legion (Mark 5:9, Luke 8:30; also see the account of legion X Fretensis at Jericho), the expelled spirit who came back with seven friends (Matthew 12:43-45; again in response to the Pharisees' quest for a sign), the "more than twelve" legions at Christ's disposal, the lightning that travelled from east to west (Matthew 24:27, Luke 17:24) or satan who fell from heaven like lightning (Luke 10:18).
And the list goes on.
🔼Dalmanutha: the resurrection of the Christ
All gospels relate the death of Jesus directly to the destruction of the temple, and all inform the reader that the death of Jesus was followed by his resurrection and glorification, and only his obtuse disciples didn't get it.
The crucifixion of Christ, though theologically supremely significant, would have held no meaning to the gospel's audience if it had been a mere historical paragraph of something that had occurred forty years prior during a century in which millions of people had been crucified. The freeing of Barabbas ("son of the father") would have been an even more superfluous detail if it could not have immediately been recognized as something that no Roman or Jewish law provided for; it was a red herring discussing Vespasian's son Titus.
The gospels come from an age in which a great amount of writing was going on. Had Jesus of the gospels been just another teacher, he would have been unnoticed. Had he just been a man who was crucified decades ago, he would have been nothing special. But the evangelists were able to use the story of Jesus to explain the present age in detail, and prove that there was sound reason for the hope that the great mission of Israel had not been foiled. The gospels and epistles went viral because they were absolutely brilliant commentaries on the situation at hand. Jesus' words: "But after I have been raised, I will go before you to Galilee" (Matthew 26:32) have puzzled theologians for centuries but were meant to be of great consolation to the displaced Sanhedrin in Usha.
After putting everything in its perspective, there is little room left to doubt that Matthew's mysteriously roaming Pharisees and Sadducees stood symbol for the move to Magdala, whereas Mark's Pharisees at Dalmanutha represented the brilliantly negotiated move of the Sanhedrin (the "Shepherds") to Jabneh after the destruction in 70 AD, and to Usha in Galilee during the presidency of Gamaliel II in 80 AD.