All posts for the month December, 2019

Absalom and Achitophel

Published December 30, 2019 by amaic

Related image 


 Damien F. Mackey



Such ‘puzzled’ commentators, and indeed Hill himself – who will lament “the almost annoying paucity of material for careful analysis [of Jonadab]” – would greatly benefit here, I believe, from a recognition of Jonadab’s alter ego. Jonadab, it is here suggested, was none other than the legendary counsellor, “Achitophel” (Ahitophel) ….



Into the halçyon pastoral scene (Song of Solomon) of sun, vineyards, flocks, goats, shepherds, lillies, valleys and fruit trees – a veritable Garden of Eden – there will emerge a bitter and cunning “adviser”.


Like the serpent of old.


This dark character will bring down Amnon. And he will leave the Shunammite “desolate”.

He will foment Absalom’s rebellion, forcing King David to leave his city of Jerusalem in tears. And he will finally, like Judas, commit suicide.


Here is how the terrible and long-ranging conspiracy began to unfold (2 Samuel 13:1-2):


“In the course of time, Amnon son of David fell in love with Tamar, the beautiful sister of Absalom son of David. Amnon became so obsessed with his sister Tamar that he made himself ill. She was a virgin, and it seemed impossible for him to do anything to her”.


Enter Jonadab (vv. 3-4): “Now Amnon had an adviser named Jonadab son of Shimeah, David’s brother. Jonadab was a very shrewd man. He asked Amnon, ‘Why do you, the king’s son, look so haggard morning after morning? Won’t you tell me?’

Amnon said to him, ‘I’m in love with Tamar, my brother Absalom’s sister’.”


There is so much to know about this Jonadab.

Some translations present him as Amnon’s “friend”, but “adviser” (as above) will turn out to be by far the more suitable rendering of the Hebrew rēa‘ (רֵעַ).

For, no “friend” of Amnon’s was Jonadab!


Commenting on this Hebrew word, Andrew E. Hill (assistant prof. of OT at Wheaton College, Illinois) writes (


“Jonadab is an acknowledged “friend” (réa’) of Amnon …. While it is possible that he was a close personal friend of Amnon since he was a cousin, it seems more likely that the word here connotes a special office or association with the royal family (especially in light of his role as a counselor in David’s cabinet; cf. 13:32-35). During Solomon’s reign, Zabud … has the title of priest and “king’s friend” (ré‘eh hammelek, 1 Kgs 4:5). It may well be that with Jonadab (and others?) this cabinet post has its rudimentary beginnings in the Davidic monarchy”.


Another key Hebrew word used to describe Jonadab is ḥākām (חָכָם), variously understood as meaning “wise”, or just “crafty” or “shrewd”.

Before we consider further this important word, we need to know what was the criminal advice that Jonadab had given to the king’s lovesick oldest son, Amnon. It was this (2 Samuel 13:5): “‘Go to bed and pretend to be ill’, Jonadab said. ‘When your father comes to see you, say to him, ‘I would like my sister Tamar to come and give me something to eat. Let her prepare the food in my sight so I may watch her and then eat it from her hand’.’”

Clear and unequivocal advice from a man described as ḥākām, but also coldly calculated advice with deep undertones and ramifications of which the manipulative Jonadab was fully aware.


Andrew E. Hill, again, offers this explanation of the adjective ḥākām:

“Even more significant, Jonadab is called a “wise” man (hãkãm, 2 Sam 13:3). The majority of translators take this to mean “crafty” or “shrewd” due to the criminal nature of his advice to Amnon.” Yet S. R. Driver noted that “subtil” “is scarcely a fair paraphrase: the text says that Jonadab was wise.” He concludes that had the writer intended to convey a meaning of “shrewd” or “crafty” he would have used ´ãrôm or another such word (cf. Gen 3:1)”.

  1. P. Smith remarked that “Jonadab [Amnon’s] cousin and intimate friend [sic] was a very wise man, though in this case his wisdom was put to base uses”.

“Most recently K. P. McCarter interprets Jonadab to be “very wise,” while acknowledging that our English connotation of “wise” may be a misleading translation. …. I concur with Driver and the others cited on the understanding of Jonadab as a very wise man. In addition, I posit that the ploy suggested by Jonadab to Amnon for the seduction of Tamar was known to him by virtue of his standing in the royal court as a sage”.


Hill will also cite the view of H. P. Müller, that the Hebrew word may pertain to learning:


“… after the beginning of the monarchy, it is commonly understood that the root km refers above all to the academic wisdom of the court and the ideals of the class entrusted with it”. Furthermore, recent study has shown considerable Egyptian influence on a wide range of OT literary types, most notably Hebrew wisdom.’ In recognition of this fact, R. N. Whybray states that

we cannot dismiss the considered opinion of S. Morenz, who claims that the presence at Solomon’s court of bilingual officials with a competent knowledge of Egyptian writing must be regarded, in view of what we now know of that court and its diplomatic relations with Egypt, as absolutely beyond question; and what is true of Solomon’s court may reasonably be supposed to be true of David’s also. ….


…. Given this Egyptian influence in the Israelite united monarchy and the knowledge of and access to Egyptian literature, my contention is that Jonadab was not only skilled in the academic wisdom of the royal court but also had some familiarity with Egyptian literature”.


This “Egyptian” element needed to be included here because soon the suggestion will be made that Jonadab may have had – like Tamar – an Egyptian-name alter ego.


The Plot Thickens


Andrew E. Hill begins his discussion of adviser Jonadab, in his close association with Amnon, by referring to the puzzlement that Jonadab’s actual rôle in this has caused commentators. Hill gives these “two reasons” why he thinks that commentators may be puzzled about Jonadab:


  1. because of the ill-fated advice he gave to the crown prince Amnon (2 Sam 13:3-5), and
  2. on account of his uncanny foreknowledge of the events surrounding Absalom’s vengeful murder of Amnon (13:32-35).


Such ‘puzzled’ commentators, and indeed Hill himself – who will lament “the almost annoying paucity of material for careful analysis [of Jonadab]” – would greatly benefit here, I believe, from a recognition of Jonadab’s alter ego. Jonadab, it is here suggested, was none other than the legendary counsellor, “Achitophel” (Ahitophel), which may possibly be an Egyptian name: something like Rahotep, or Aahotepra, with the pagan theophoric (Ra) once again dropped. Thus, e.g., [R]ahotep (or Ahhotep) = Ahitoph- plus the Hebrew theophoric –el (“God”).


King David was no fool. He would see right through the trickery of e.g. Joab (and others), who would then be forced to concede (2 Samuel 14:20): ‘Your servant Joab did this to change the present situation. My lord has wisdom like that of an angel of God – he knows everything that happens in the land’. Yet even the ‘angelic’ David is said to have greatly valued the advice of Achitophel (16:23): “Now in those days the advice Achitophel gave was like that of one who inquires of God. That was how both David and Absalom regarded all of Achitophel’s advice”.

He may even have advised the ageing King David to take into his service “a young virgin”.


Achitophel was, I propose, none other than the “wise” (ḥākām) royal counsellor, Jonadab.


Credit, then, to Andrew E. Hill for being able to get behind Jonadab’s conspiracy without his having, to assist him, this crucial Achitophel connection. I can now disclose Hill’s giveaway title, “A Jonadab Connection in the Absalom Conspiracy?” (JETS 30/4, Dec., 1987, 387-390).


Hill is undoubtedly quite correct in his estimation that Jonadab fully knew what he was doing, even if he may be wrong in suggesting that the latter was using Egyptian love poetry for his precedent (more likely, we think, the Egyptians picked it up later from the Tamar incident). According to Hill:

“Unlike those who view this counsel of Jonadab to Amnon as bad advice because it concerned itself only with methods and failed to calculate the consequences, I am convinced that Jonadab knew full well the ultimate outcome of his counsel…. The illness ploy, borrowed from Egyptian love poetry [sic], was maliciously designed to exploit Amnon’s domination by sensuality (a trait he shared with his father David)”.


What was the psychologically astute Jonadab (Achitophel) really up to? And why?

Jonadab, according to Hill, was not actually serving Amnon’s interests at all. He was cunningly providing Absalom with the opportunity to bring down his brother, Amnon, the crown prince:


“… I am inclined to see Jonadab as a co-conspirator with Absalom in the whole affair, since both men have much to gain. Absalom’s desires for revenge against Amnon and ultimately his designs for usurping his father’s throne are clearly seen in the narrative (cf. 13:21-23, 32; 15:21-6). Amnon, as crown prince, stands in the way as a rival to the ambitions of Absalom. Absalom and Jonadab collaborate to remove this obstacle to kingship by taking advantage of a basic weakness in Amnon’s character. The calculated plotting of Absalom and Jonadab is evidenced by the pointed questioning of Tamar by Absalom after her rape and his almost callous treatment of a sister brutishly violated and now bereft of a meaningful future (almost as if he expected it, at least according to the tone of the statements in the narrative; cf. 13:20-22). While a most reprehensible allegation, it seems Tamar may have been an unwitting pawn of a devious schemer, an expendable token in the power play for the throne”.


That Hill has masterfully managed to measure the manic Machiavellian manipulating by the famous pair, Absalom and Achitophel, may be borne out in the subsequent progress of events:


“Further testimony to the Absalom-Jonadab conspiracy is found in the time-table exposed in the narrative. Absalom coolly bides his time for two years before ostensibly avenging Tamar’s rape (13:23), and only after a three-year self-imposed exile in Geshur (the homeland of his mother Maacah, 3:3) does he return to Jerusalem to make preparations for his own kingship by undermining popular allegiance to David (13:39; 15:1-6). Certainly this belies a carefully constructed strategy for seizing control of the monarchy and bespeaks a man of considerable foresight, determination and ability”.


Hill’s excellent grasp of the situation becomes even more plausible if Jonadab were Achitophel, Absalom’s adviser during the prince’s revolt against King David.


The “two years” and “three-year self-imposed exile”, then “two years” more upon Absalom’s return – during which King David refused to see him – are chronological markers indicating that Abishag (or Tamar) must have come into David’s service closer to his 60th, than 70th, year.


But why this bloody-minded obsession on the part of Jonadab-Achitophel?

From 2 Samuel 13:3, we might estimate that he was not so very old, “Amnon had an adviser named Jonadab son of Shimeah, David’s brother”. That he was at least younger than David. Achitophel, however, would be estimated as having been old and grey – more appropriate to a wise counsellor – he apparently being the grandfather of Bathsheba (cf. 2 Samuel 11:3; 23:34). “Jonadab son of Shimeah, David’s brother” would now, therefore, need to be re-translated as (based on the meanings of Hebrew ben as previously noted), “Jonadab official of Shimeah …”.


Might not the formerly wise counsellor of King David have become embittered over the latter’s deplorable treatment of Bathsheba and her husband, Uriah the Hittite? Adultery, then murder? King David had, at this point – as Pope Francis rightly observes – fallen into corruption. (


Francis confided: “in reading this passage, I ask myself: where is David, that brave youth who confronted the Philistine with his sling and five stones and told him: ‘The Lord is my strength’?”. This, the Pope remarked, “is another David”. Indeed, “where is that David who, knowing that Saul wanted to kill him and, twice having the opportunity to kill King Saul, said: ‘No, I cannot touch the Lord’s anointed one’?”.

The reality is, Francis explained, that “this man changed, this man softened”. And, he added, “it brings to mind a passage of the prophet Ezekiel (16:15) when God speaks to his people as a groom to his bride, saying: after I gave all of this to you, you besot with your beauty, took advantage with your renown, and played the harlot. You felt secure and you forgot me’”.

This is precisely “what happened with David at that moment”, Francis said. “The great, noble David felt sure of himself, because the kingdom was strong, and thus he sinned: he sinned in lust, he committed adultery, and he also unjustly killed a noble man, in order to cover up his sin”.

“This is a moment in the life of David”, the Pontiff noted, “that we can apply to our own: it is the passing from sin into corruption”. Here “David begins, he takes the first step toward corruption: he obtains power, strength”. For this reason “corruption is an easier sin for all of us who have certain power, be it ecclesiastical, religious, economic or political power”. And, Pope Francis said, “the devil makes us feel secure: ‘I can do it’”.

But “the Lord really loved David, so much” that the Lord “sent the prophet Nathan to reflect his soul”, and David “repented and cried: ‘I have sinned’”.

“I would like to stress only this”, Francis stated: “there is a moment when the tendency to sin or a moment when our situation is really secure and we seem to be blessed; we have a lot of power, money, I don’t know, a lot of ‘things’”. It can happen even “to us priests: sin stops being sin and becomes corruption. The Lord always forgives. But one of the worst things about corruption is that a corrupt person doesn’t need to ask forgiveness, he doesn’t feel the need”.

The Pope then asked for prayer “for the Church, beginning with us, the Pope, bishops, priests, consecrated people, lay faithful: ‘Lord, save us, save us from corruption. Sinners yes, Lord, we all are, but never corrupt! Let us ask the Lord for this grace’”, Francis concluded.


Jonadab-Achitophel, as the grandfather of Bathsheba – and thus likely having shared a close family bond with her husband, Uriah – might well have become embittered against King David for what the latter had done to his family. The counsellor’s once ‘god-like’ advice would now set the Davidic world spinning out of control – as we read above, “wise man, though in this case his wisdom was put to base uses”. Had not David been fore-warned in a dread prophecy (2 Samuel 12:10): ‘… the sword shall never leave your house’?


To begin with, Absalom – urged on by Jonadab-Achitophel – will slay his brother, Amnon. Andrew E. Hill writes on this:


“One last proof adduced for a Jonadab connection in the Absalom conspiracy is Jonadab’s own response to the rumor supposing the assassination of all the king’s sons (13:30). In countering the false report Jonadab betrayed his complete knowledge of the ambush in Baal Hazor (including the participants in the crime, since he confirmed that “they [the servants of Absalom] killed” only Amnon; cf. 13:29, 30-32) before any official or eyewitness news reached Jerusalem. In addition he informed the royal court that Absalom had been plotting his revenge for two years (13:32-33). The only possible explanation for Jonadab’s detailed foreknowledge of the bloodletting at Baal Hazor is his involvement in the scheme from its inception”.


No doubt the “wise” Jonadab-Achitophel had discerned that Absalom would make a far more willing candidate, than would Amnon (then heir to the throne), for overthrowing King David.


Then everything changes. Amnon is killed, this sending a shudder through the royal palace. David is told (2 Samuel 13:30): ‘Absalom has struck down all the king’s sons; not one of them is left’. But, while David is in the process of doing one of the things that he does best, grieving (v. 31): “The king stood up, tore his clothes and lay down on the ground; and all his attendants … with their clothes torn”, Jonadab-Achitophel will (with his insider’s knowledge) reassure the king (v. 32): ‘My lord should not think that they killed all the princes; only Amnon is dead. This has been Absalom’s express intention ever since the day Amnon raped his sister Tamar’.

“Meanwhile, Absalom had fled” (v. 34).

Now, did Absalom on this occasion take with him his ‘sister’ Tamar, as well as “his men” who had slain the unsuspecting Amnon (vv. 28-29)? “Absalom fled and went to Talmai son of Ammihud, the king of Geshur. But King David mourned many days for his son. After Absalom fled and went to Geshur, he stayed there three years” (vv. 37-38).


According to 2 Samuel 15:32, there was already a significant place of worship on the Mount of Olives – some thousand years before Jesus was crucified: “But David continued up the Mount of Olives, weeping as he went; his head was covered and he was barefoot. All the people with him covered their heads too and were weeping as they went up. Now David had been told, “Achitophel is among the conspirators with Absalom.” So David prayed, “O Lord, turn Achitophel’s counsel into foolishness.” When David arrived at the summit [place of the head], where people used to worship God, Hushai the Arkite was there to meet him, his robe torn and dust on his head” (2 Samuel 15:30-32).

Absalom’s prized hair would bring him undone: “He was riding his mule, and as the mule went under the thick branches of a large oak, Absalom’s hair got caught in the tree. He was left hanging in midair, while the mule he was riding kept on going” (2 Samuel 18:9). This made him easy pickings for David’s “too hard” man, Joab, who “took three javelins in his hand and plunged them into Absalom’s heart while Absalom was still alive in the oak tree” (v. 14) – against the wish of King David: ‘Be gentle with the young man Absalom for my sake’ (v. 5).


Prior to this Absalom had, for once, put aside the advice of Achitophel in favour of another counsellor, Hushai (17:14). And this snub would lead to Achitophel’s suicide – something of a rarity in the Bible (v. 23): “When Achitophel saw that his advice had not been followed, he saddled his donkey and set out for his house in his hometown. He put his house in order and then hanged himself. So he died and was buried in his father’s tomb”.


In this, his final act, Achitophel draws comparisons with Judas Iscariot.


Whilst, ultimately, we are all responsible for our own actions, it is terrible to think that the tragedy that was Achitophel may have been set in train by King David’s callous murder of Uriah, the husband of Achitophel’s grand-daughter with whom David had committed adultery.


St. Paul’s “Jannes and Jambres” were a pair of Reubenite brothers

Published December 19, 2019 by amaic


Damien F. Mackey



“Just as Jannes and Jambres opposed Moses, so also these teachers oppose the truth.

They are men of depraved minds, who, as far as the faith is concerned, are rejected”.

2 Timothy 3:8


Jannes and Jambres not Egyptians


The tendency, a natural one, is to suspect that the two characters to whom St. Paul refers in

2 Timothy 3:8, “Jannes and Mambres [Jambres]”, were Egyptians (e.g., magicians) who had ‘resisted Moses to his face’ when Moses was still back in the land of Egypt.

Here it will be suggested, instead, that the pair were Israelite troublemakers for Moses,

whose bitter opposition to the great man would lead to their terrible demise. 



In the course of my attempts over the years to set Moses in an historical Egyptian setting I have generally tried also to take into account “Jannes and Mambres” as Moses’ contemporaries.

But this has hardly been an easy task – especially when one does not know who were this pair, Jannes and Mambres, or what was their nationality, or their status.


Were they, as according to long-standing tradition, Egyptian magicians, a pair of brothers?

Or were they themselves actual rulers of Egypt?


The latter was the conclusion to which I had come, that Jannes and Mambres must have been separate Egyptian kings, both of whom had been inimical to Moses.




In my revised context, Unas (Manetho’s Onnus, Jaumos, Onos), who fitted into my scheme as an alter ego of Moses’ foster/father-in-law, Chenephres (= Chephren, Neferkare/Pepi, Sesostris), and who appropriately was a magician king: “It was Unas who created the practice of listing some magic spells on the walls of the tomb” (, had a name that accords very well linguistically with Jannes.

This has often been pointed out.

Jannes, then, would be that king who was, according to Artapanus, highly jealous of Moses, a military genius, who kept upstaging the king in his exploits. “Jealousy of Moses’ excellent qualities induced Chenephres to send him with unskilled troops on a military expedition to Ethiopia, where he won great victories”.


Theirs was very much a Saul-David kind of relationship (I Samuel 18:7): “Saul has his thousands, David his tens of thousand”, which, of course, enfuriated King Saul (vv. 8-9): “Saul was very angry; this refrain displeased him greatly. ‘They have credited David with tens of thousands’, he thought, ‘but me with only thousands. What more can he get but the kingdom?’ And from that time on Saul kept a close eye on David”.


Thus it could be said, as of Jannes (2 Timothy 3:8): “Just as Jannes and Jambres opposed Moses, so these men also oppose the truth, men corrupted in mind and disqualified regarding the faith”, that Chenephres “opposed Moses”. After Moses had killed an Egyptian who was beating a Hebrew (Exodus 2:11-12), we read that (v. 15): “When Pharaoh heard of this, he tried to kill Moses, but Moses fled from Pharaoh and went to live in Midian …”.

There was no love lost between these two men, and so I thought that the first of St. Paul’s pair, “Jannes”, could be this particular ruler of Egypt, with “Mambres” to be, as I expected, a late one.




This name, it seemed to me, had something more of an Egyptian ring to it, say e.g., Ma-ib-re.

By now I was locked in to believing that Mambres, too, must have been a ruler of Egypt, and the most likely candidate for him – a standout, I thought – was the “stiff-necked” king who refused to let the people of Israel go away from Egypt. He “opposed” (Gk. antestēsan) Moses and Aaron even in the face of the Ten Plagues.

That scenario meant that I now must identify an Egyptian ruler of the Plagues and Exodus who had one of his names resembling Mambres (or Jambres). That, I thought, had to be Maibre Sheshi of the Fourteenth Dynasty.


Whether or not, the significant ruler Maibre Sheshi was the king ruling Egypt at the time of the Plagues and Exodus I would now regard as being quite irrelevant to Paul’s Jannes and Mambres.

These I now consider to be Israelite (Hebrew) personages, who had opposed Moses even in Egypt, and who would continue to oppose him most bitterly during the Exodus.

Jannes and Mambres identified


“Then Moses summoned Dathan and Abiram, the sons of Eliab. But they said, ‘We will not come! Isn’t it enough that you have brought us up out of a land flowing with milk and honey

to kill us in the wilderness? And now you also want to lord it over us! Moreover, you haven’t brought us into a land flowing with milk and honey or given us an inheritance of fields and vineyards. Do you want to treat these men like slaves No, we will not come!’”

Numbers 16:12-14


Dathan and Abiram, two Reubenite brothers, were the pair, “Jannes and Jambres” of whom Paul wrote so disparagingly in 2 Timothy 3:8.


Nahum Sarna well describes the troublesome pair in his article, “Dathan and Abiram”, for:



DATHAN AND ABIRAM (Heb. דָּתָן, cf. Akk. datnu, “strong”; and Heb. אֲבִירָם, “my [or ‘the’] father is exalted”), sons of Eliab of the tribe of Reuben, leaders of a revolt against the leadership of Moses (Num. 16; 26:9–11). According to these sources, they joined the rebellion of *Korah during the desert wanderings. Defying Moses’ summons, they accused him of having brought the Israelites out of the fertile land of Egypt in order to let them die in the wilderness (16:12–14). Moses then went to the tents of Dathan and Abiram and persuaded the rest of the community to dissociate themselves from them. Thereafter, the earth opened and swallowed the rebels, their families, and property (16:25–33). Modern scholars generally regard this narrative as resulting from an editorial interweaving of originally distinct accounts of two separate rebellions against the authority of Moses. It is noted that verses 12–15 and 25ff. form a continuous, self-contained literary unit and that the former contains no mention of Korah, who is likewise omitted from the references in Deuteronomy 11:6 and Psalms 106:17. The event described served as a warning to Israel and as an example of divine justice (ibid.). Ben Sira (45:18), too, mentions it. However, no further details are given about the two rebels, and the narrative is clearly fragmentary. It is not unlikely that the rebellion was connected with the series of events that led to the tribe of Reuben’s loss of its earlier position of preeminence. ….


Apparently Dathan and Abiram had ‘form’, going back to their days in Egypt, being traditionally “… identified with the two quarreling Israelites (Ex. R. 1:30) …”:


In the Aggadah

Dathan and Abiram are regarded as the prototype of inveterate fomenters of trouble. Their names are interpreted allegorically, Dathan denoting his violation of God’s law, and Abiram his refusal to repent (Sanh. 109b). They were wholly wicked “from beginning to end” (Meg. 11a). They are identified with the two quarreling Israelites (Ex. R. 1:30) and it was they who caused Moses’ flight from Egypt by denouncing him to Pharaoh for killing the Egyptian taskmaster, and revealing that he was not the son of Pharaoh’s daughter (Yal., Ex. 167). They incited the people to return to Egypt (Ex. R. 1:29) both at the Red Sea and when the spies returned from Canaan (Mid. Ps. 106:5). They transgressed the commandment concerning the manna by keeping it overnight (Ex. R. 1:30). Dathan and Abiram became ringleaders of the rebellion under the influence of Korah, as a result of the camp of their tribe being next to that of Korah, and on this the rabbis base the statement “Woe to the wicked, woe to his neighbor” (Num. R. 18:5). When Moses humbly went to them in person in order to dissuade them from their evil designs, they were impertinent and insulting to him (mk 16a). In their statement to Moses, “we will not come up,” they unconsciously prophesied their end, as they did not go up, but down to hell (Num. R. 18:10). ….


If they were, in fact, “the two quarreling Israelites” (Exodus 2:13-14): “The next day [Moses] went out and saw two Hebrews fighting. He asked the one in the wrong, ‘Why are you hitting your fellow Hebrew?’ The man said, ‘Who made you ruler and judge over us? Are you thinking of killing me as you killed the Egyptian?’,” then the retort ‘Who made you ruler and judge over us?’ perfectly reflects what Dathan and Abarim would say to Moses later in the desert (Numbers 16:13) ‘And now you also want to lord it over us!’


Clearly, Dathan and Abiram had an inflated sense of their own self-importance.

Moses had officially been appointed, by the king of Egypt, as “ruler and judge over” these people.

For Moses was at the time, according to my revision, ‘Chief Judge’ and ‘Vizier’ of Egypt:

Historical Moses may be Weni and Mentuhotep

Can the names, Dathan and Abiram, be merged with Jannes and Jambres?

I believe that they basically can.

We read above that, in the Aggadah, the names Dathan and Abiram are interpreted allegorically.

The other pair of names, Jannes and Jambres, can be rendered as “John and Ambrose”, according to R. Gedaliah (Shalsheleth Hakabala, fol. 7. 1):


“It is commonly said by the Jews F15, that these were the two sons of Balaam, and they are said to be the chief of the magicians of Egypt F16; the latter of these is called in the Vulgate Latin version Mambres; and in some Jewish writers his name is Mamre F17 by whom also the former is called Jochane or John; and indeed Joannes, Jannes, and John, are the same name; and R. Gedaliah F18 says, that their names in other languages are John and Ambrose, which is not unlikely”.


In this case, Dathan would better be rendered as Jathan, a contraction of Jonathan, hence Ἰωάννης (Iōannēs) in Greek. We can easily see the connection here with Jannes (Iōannēs).

Ambrose, obviously not a Hebrew name: “The later Jews distorted the names into John and Ambrose” (, is a very good fit for Jambres. But less so a fit for Abiram.


Since it occurred to me only yesterday (18th December, 2019) that Jannes and Jambres may be identifiable with Dathan and Abiram, I have not yet had time to read if, and where, others may have expressed this same idea. From the following, which rejects any such connection, it would appear that some have proposed that the two pairs might equate (“as some have thought”):


…. These were not Jews, who rose up and opposed Moses, as Dathan and Abiram did, as some have thought; but Egyptian magicians, the chief of those that Pharaoh sent for, when Moses and Aaron came before him, and wrought miracles; and who did in like manner by their enchantments, Exodus 7:11 upon which place the Targum of Jonathan has these words:


“and Pharaoh called the wise men and the magicians; and Janis and Jambres, the magicians of the Egyptians, did so by the enchantments of their divinations.”





On the Maccabees and Bar Kochba

Published December 17, 2019 by amaic
Image result for bar kokhba"


Damien F. Mackey


“… your conclusion: “Judas the Galilean” who “appeared in the days of the census”, according to Gamaliel, may just be that required link between the Maccabees and the census of Luke 2.” seems “minimalistic” after many findings here and there.

What are historical implications of your findings?”

 A Reader


This particular correspondent has written in full, commencing with reference to my article:


Maccabees need to be greatly lowered on the time scale



Hi Damien,

I read your article on Maccabees, which does record several interesting literary parallels.

But your conclusion: “Judas the Galilean” who “appeared in the days of the census”, according to Gamaliel, may just be that required link between the Maccabees and the census of Luke 2.” seems “minimalistic” after many findings here and there. What are historical implications of your findings?

That Maccabees did not exist as well as Bar-Kochba? That the only historical character was Judah Ha-Galili mentioned in Acts? That all Books of Maccabees are of the 1st century CE?

But Josephus, born in 37 CE and who claimed descent from Maccabees, lived not far from this time – why did he contribute to the confusion?

And why Bar-Kochba (or bar-Koziba as per Talmud) is mentioned at all? Why Sephoris is Modiin? You must prove you know Hebrew when you talk about Jewish history by finding a common etymology of two different words.

Talmud is not just “Jewish legends” as you wrote. It is important collection of historical facts. In my article about Encounter, I show that Talmud is more trustworthy than e.g., Josephus who was prong to “edit” his sources when needed.

The Second Temple of Herod was of marble. The one built by Zerubavel – of wood. Which “unworthy notion” do I create here?


PS As for Elijah I have an opinion that he was not an “angel” but was simply murdered by Elisha.

PSS I may agree that Haman is a purely mythological figure and many could be his prototype.




Damien Mackey replies:


You are like various people I have encountered over the years who read one or more of my articles and then criticise me for things that I have never actually written or thought. “… a thing which I never … spoke of, nor did it ever enter my mind,” (Jer. 19:5).

Maccabees DID exist, as well as Bar Kochba. (The dating/era just needs to be corrected) – see e.g. my article:

“A New Timetable for the Nativity of Jesus Christ”


Gamaliel’s Judas WAS Judas Maccabeus, but Gamaliel gives an appalling description of the great man as if he were a mere flash in the pan. Nor any mention by G. of Judas’s mighty brothers after him, Jonathan and Simon (who, incidentally, is marvellously described in Sirach 50:1-21).

Sepphoris as Modein (“declarers”) is a highly tentative connection (no name likeness claimed here). Logically, however, if Judas the Galilean were Judas Maccabeus whose ancestral home was Modein, then Modein might well be Sepphoris, the base for Judas the Galilean.

After all, archaeologists cannot find the elaborate Maccabean tomb (I Maccabees 13:27-3) at the presumed ‘Modein’ near Tel Aviv.

Re Zerubbabel’s Temple of Yahweh: “‘The glory of this present House will be greater than the glory of the former House’,” said the Lord” (Haggai 2:9).

You have turned it into a log cabin.

“Haman … a purely mythological figure”?

I prefer the legends of the Jews that accord him historical reality, as a Jew. He was a long-lived King of Judah.




Isabella of Castile a “second Joan of Arc”?

Published December 14, 2019 by amaic
Image result for queen isabella"

Isabella of Castile saintly or satanic? Part Two: A “second Joan of Arc”



Damien F. Mackey



“Joan [of Arc]’s life was being reconceived, reengineered,

as an acceptable role a woman could play in warfare”.

Kirstin Downey



Around and around it goes. Joan of Arc was widely regarded as having been a “second Judith”. See e.g. my article:


Judith of Bethulia and Joan of Arc

in which I wrote, for instance:


Donald Spoto in Joan. The Mysterious Life of the Heretic Who Became a Saint (Harper, 2007) has a chapter five on Joan of Arc that he entitles “The New Deborah”. And Joan has also been described as a “second Judith”. Both Deborah and Judith were celebrated Old Testament women who had provided military assistance to Israel. ….


And the enigmatic Queen Isabella of Castile, variously described as being “a cruel villain” (Lisa J. Yarde) and a candidate for beatification: has, for her part, been labelled a second Joan of Arc, or “Spain’s Joan of Arc”:


Isabella the Catholic: Spain’s Joan of Arc”


She pounced upon her advantage with all the energy of an awakening genius. Tireless, seemingly ubiquitous, she was almost constantly on horseback, going from one end of the kingdom to the other, making speeches, holding conferences, sitting up all night dictating letters to her secretaries, holding court all morning to sentence a few thieves and murderers to be hanged, riding a hundred miles or two, over cold mountain passes to plead with some lukewarm nobleman for five hundred soldiers. She knew and understood the word NECESSITY. She did not yet know the meaning of the word IMPOSSIBLE. All things were possible to God, and God was on her side. If she suffered from certain physical miseries, that was only to be expected; the work had to be done, it was necessary. Wherever she went the common people cheered her….


Moved to tears by her exhortations, the people believed her words, because it was obvious that she herself believed them with the irresistible sincerity of a child. Thanks to her skill…the end of June saw a considerable mobilization of hidalgos and the proletariat at several points. Isabel herself took command of several thousand men at Toledo, rode among them in armor, like Jeanne d’Arc; gave commands, organized, exhorted. ….

Or was Queen Isabella, perhaps, more of ‘an armchair warrior’ who read about Joan of Arc?


Isabella, a self-taught Latin speaker who made sure her four daughters and one son were properly educated by Italian humanists, kept the story of Joan of Arc on her bookshelf. She was no frontline warrior herself – as a traditionalist, she saw that as man’s work – but she enjoyed the challenges of warfare and became her own army’s quartermaster-general and armourer, plotting campaigns alongside Ferdinand. She built up a contingent of artillery so powerful that it turned the art of medieval warfare on its head. Thick castle walls, previously a guarantee of safety, crumbled before her cannon. ….


Kirstin Downey has also, in her book Isabella: The Warrior Queen – that I am currently reading – recognised Queen Isabella as being somewhat in the mould of (or moulded by teachers to be) Joan of Arc: “The goal of those circulating these stories may have been to influence Isabella and bring her to see herself as a second Joan of Arc”.

Firstly, in a review of her book we read:


Her realization that Isabella’s “meteoric rise to power” occurred at a moment in history when women seldom wielded monarchical authority provided an additional inspiration for this work, whereas her apparent admiration for the queen’s equestrian skills and reported presence on various battlefields seemingly contributed to Downey’s decision to label Isabella a “warrior queen,” Spain’s equivalent of France’s legendary Joan of Arc.



‘Isabella: The Warrior Queen’ by Kirstin Downey (Nan A. Talese)


Otherwise, Downey’s Isabella is pious, a loyal and forgiving wife, and a devoted and loving mother. But the author takes issue — and this is the central theme of the book — with the tendency of historians, “blinded by their own sexisim,” to portray Isabella merely as Ferdinand’s sidekick. Instead Downey represents Ferdinand as a corrupt, feckless ruler more interested in attending to his libido than to the business of state, and Isabella as the living embodiment of the medieval tradition of the “ideal prince.”


Kirstin Downey herself has written about Isabella (pp. 40-42):


Fascinating news came from France when Isabella was about five. Europe was engaged in an intense reevaluation of the role of Joan of Arc, the French teenager who had organized her countrymen around a religious banner to eject a foreign invader.

…. Joan’s experience and sacrifice was a story that many men and women of a spiritual bent found mesmerizing in these last days of the medieval era. People everywhere debated what role God had played in helping Joan achieve her signal victories.


Some of the people who were educating Isabella had been much taken with Joan and her military successes. Rodrigo Sánchez de Arévalo, one of the clerics associated with the Castilian court, had been living in France during Joan’s meteoric career and was a fervent admirer of hers. Gonzalo Chacón, head of their household staff and the husband of Isabella’s governess, shared his recollections of how Isabella’s father had welcomed Joan’s envoys with great respect. He carried about with him a letter purportedly from Joan herself and displayed it like a holy relic. He is believed to have been the author who wrote about a character like Joan in an anonymous chronicle, saying that God alone had inspired her. …. Some versions of that chronicle, the book known as La Poncella de Francia, were explicitly dedicated to Princess Isabella. In this version of the tale, the young woman called La Poncella did not die but rode off happily into the sunset. ….


Some of the people around Isabella may have been presenting Joan of Arc’s life as an ideal that Isabella could emulate, as a “heaven-sentwoman who could “save the realm” from an outside invader. …. Joan’s life was being reconceived, reengineered, as an acceptable role a woman could play in warfare. The goal of those circulating these stories may have been to influence Isabella and bring her to see herself as a second Joan of Arc. In any case, whether the idea was impressed upon her or she came up with it herself, it found fertile ground in Isabella’s imagination, because she already had a tendency to view herself as something of martyr for a cause and she had the kind of romantic temperament that appreciated people who made great sacrifices in pursuit of a common good. Moreover, she had a deep and fervent belief in miracles and signs from God. Soon she would seek out people to work with her who viewed the world in the same way. ….





Abimelech and Nebka

Published December 12, 2019 by amaic
Image result for nebkaure khety"

Abimelech of Genesis may be

the legendary Nebka of Egypt


 Damien F. Mackey



Grimal refers to another Aha (that being the name of Abraham’s

proposed contemporary, Hor-Aha) as living at the same time as Khety II.



The king of Egypt at the time of Abram (Abraham) I have identified, e.g. in my article:


From Genesis to Hernan Cortes. Volume Four: Era of Abraham


as the first ruler of the First Dynasty, the very long-reigning Menes Hor-Aha (‘Min’).

And I have been able – following the structure of the Book of Genesis (toledôt and chiasmus) – to link that ruler with Abimelech known to Abram (Genesis 20:2) and to Isaac (26:1).



Whilst Abimelech (אֲבִימֶ֙לֶךְ֙) is a Hebrew name, meaning “My Father is King”, I noted that it had a structure and meaning rather similar to that of the supposedly Second Dynasty king, Raneb, or Nebra:


that is, “Father Ra is King”.


Before I had come to the conclusion that Abram’s ruler of Egypt belonged to the First Dynasty, I had thought – the same as David Rohl, although quite independently of him – that he must be the Tenth Dynasty’s Khety.

Rohl numbers him as Khety IV Nebkaure, whereas I had numbered him as Khety III (though N. Grimal has a Khety II Nebkaure, A History of Egypt, pp. 144, 148).

If the so-called Tenth Dynasty were really to be located this early in time, I had thought, then this would have had major ramifications for any attempted reconstruction of Egyptian history. Having Abram’s Egyptian ruler situated in the Tenth Dynasty fitted well with my view then, at least, that Joseph, who arrived on the scene about two centuries after Abraham, had belonged to the Eleventh Dynasty (as well as to the Third, as Imhotep).


Although I would later drop from my revision the notion of Khety (be he II, III or IV) as Abraham’s king of Egypt, not being able to connect him securely to the Old Kingdom era, I am now inclined to return to it.

Previously I had written on this


So far, however, I have not been able to establish any compelling link between the 1st and 10th Egyptian dynasties (perhaps Aha “Athothis” in 1 can connect with “Akhthoes” in 10). Nevertheless, that pharaoh Khety appears to have possessed certain striking likenesses to Abram’s [king] has not been lost on David Rohl as well, who, in From Eden to Exile: The Epic History of the People of the Bible (Arrow Books, 2003), identified the “Pharaoh” with Khety (Rohl actually numbers him as Khety IV). And he will further incorporate the view of the Roman author, Pliny, that Abram’s “Pharaoh” had a name that Rohl considers to be akin to Khety’s prenomen: Nebkaure.


Here, for what it is worth, is what I have written about pharaoh Khety III:

There is a somewhat obscure incident in 10th dynasty history, associated with … Wahkare Khety III and the nome of Thinis, that may possibly relate to the biblical incident [of “Pharaoh” and Abram’s wife]. It should be noted firstly that Khety III is considered to have had to restore order in Egypt after a general era of violence and food shortage, brought on says N. Grimal by “the onset of a Sahelian climate, particularly in eastern Africa” [A History of Ancient Egypt, Blackwell, 1994, p. 139]. Moreover, Khety III’s “real preoccupation was with northern Egypt, which he succeeded in liberating from the occupying populations of Bedouin and Asiatics” [ibid., p. 145]. Could these eastern nomads have been the famine-starved Syro-Palestinians of Abram’s era – including the Hebrews themselves – who had been forced to flee to Egypt for sustenance? And was Khety III referring to the Sarai incident when, in his famous Instruction addressed to his son, Merikare, he recalled, in regard to Thinis (ancient seat of power in Egypt):


Lo, a shameful deed occurred in my time:

The nome of This was ravaged;

Though it happened through my doing,

I learned it after it was done.

[Emphasis added].

Cf. Genesis 12:17-19:

But the Lord afflicted Pharaoh and his house with great plagues because of Sarai ….

So Pharaoh called Abram, and said,

‘What is this you have done to me?

Why did you not tell me that she was your wife?

Why did you say, ‘She is my sister’? so that I took her for my wife?

Now then, here is your wife, take her, and be gone’.


It may now be possible to propose some (albeit tenuous) links between the era of Khety and what is considered to be the far earlier Old Kingdom period to which I would assign Abraham. N. Grimal refers to another Aha (that being the name of Abraham’s proposed contemporary, Hor-ha) as living at the same time as Khety II.

Another tentative suggestion would be that the legendary Nebka, ruler of Egypt, whom Grimal and the likes find difficult to locate precisely in early Egyptian history, was Nebkaure, Nebkare, the traditional ruler of Egypt at the time of Abraham – and Khety Nebkaure according to David Rohl.

This name, in turn, Nebka, may then allow for a link also with Raneb, whose name we found is like Abimelech.

There may be more yet to this king, since “Egyptologist Jochem Kahl argues that Weneg was the same person as king Raneb …”:


If Menes Hor-Aha (‘Min’) had really reigned for more than sixty years (Manetho-Africanus), then he is likely to have accumulated many other names and titles.


We may need to start investigating First, Second and Tenth Dynasty inter-connections.



Constantine ‘the Great’ and Judas Maccabeus

Published December 2, 2019 by amaic


Damien F. Mackey


“And just as Judas Maccabeus is promised divine aid in a dream before his victory 

over Nicanor, so Constantine dreams that he will conquer his rival Maxentius”.

 Paul Stephenson



Some of the Greek (Seleucid) history, conventionally dated to the last several BC centuries, appears to have been projected (appropriated) into a fabricated Roman imperial history of the first several AD centuries.

Most notably, in this regard, is the supposed Second Jewish Revolt against emperor Hadrian’s Rome, which – on closer examination – turns out to have been the Maccabean Jewish revolt against Antiochus ‘Epiphanes’, of whom Hadrian is “a mirror image”. See e.g. my series:


Antiochus ‘Epiphanes’ and Emperor Hadrian. Part One: “… a mirror image

beginning with:


For more on this, see:


Judas Maccabeus – Judas the Galilean




Judas Maccabeus and the downfall of Gog

Now, last night (2nd December, 2019), as I was reading through a text-like book on Constantine: Roman Emperor, Christian Victor (The Overlook Press, NY, 2010), written by Paul Stephenson, I was struck by the similarities between the Dyarchy (Greek δι- “twice” and αρχια, “rule”) – which later became the Tetrarchy (Greek τετραρχία) of the four emperors – on the one hand, and, on the other hand, the Diadochoi following on from Alexander the Great. Concerning the latter, we read (The Jerome Biblical Commentary, 1968, 75:103): “With Alexander’s death, the leadership of several successors (Diadochoi) was ineffectual, and finally a fourfold division of the empire took place”.

Compare the Roman Tetrarchy with the “fourfold division” of Alexander of Macedon’s empire.

Added to this was the parallel factor of the ‘Great Persecution’ against Christians (c. 300 AD, conventional dating), and, of course, the infamous persecution of the Jews by Antiochus ‘Epiphanes’.


And I have already pointed to similarities between one of the four Roman emperors, of the time of Constantine, Galerius, and Antiochus ‘Epiphanes’:


King Herod ‘the Great’, Sulla, and Antiochus IV ‘Epiphanes’. Part Two: Add to the mix Gaius Maximianus Galerius

But these are the sorts of similarities of which Paul Stephenson (author of the book on Constantine) is also aware (on p. 128 below he uses the phrase “the remarkable coincidences”).


  1. 109:


Lactantius’ On the Deaths of the Persecutors is the best and fullest account of the period 303-13 and this is indispensable. But it is also an angry screed, with no known model in Greek or Latin literature, nor in Christian apologetic. Not only did Lactantius delight in the misfortune and demise of the persecuting emperors, he also attributed them to the intervention of the god of the Christians, defending the interest of the faithful. Such an approach rejected the very premise on which martyrs had accepted death at the hands of their persecutors: that their god did not meddle in earthly affairs to bring misfortune upon Roman emperors. This was the first step in articulating a new Christian triumphalist rhetoric, which we shall explore more fully in later chapters.

In doing so, Lactantius drew on an Old Testament model, the Second Book of Maccabees, which still forms an accepted part of the Orthodox canon. Thus, the opening refrain of each text thanks God for punishing the wicked, and the agonizing death of Galerius mirrors that of Antiochus Epiphanes (2 Maccabees 9). And just as Judas Maccabeus is promised divine aid in a dream before his victory over Nicanor, so Constantine dreams that he will conquer his rival Maxentius.


  1. 127


Lactantius took great pleasure relating [Galerius’] death as divine punishment for his persecutions, describing his repulsive symptoms and the failure of pagan doctors and prayers to heal him.


Here I (Damien Mackey) will take the description from:


“And now when Galerius was in the eighteenth year of his reign, God struck him with an incurable disease. A malignant ulcer formed itself in the secret parts and spread by degree. The physicians attempted to eradicate it… But the sore, after having been skimmed over, broke again; a vein burst, and the blood flowed in such quantity as to endanger his life… The physicians had to undertake their operations anew, and at length they cauterized the wound… He grew emaciated, pallid, and feeble, and the bleeding then stanched. The ulcer began to be insensible to the remedy as applied, and gangrene seized all the neighboring parts. It diffused itself the wider the more the corrupted flesh was cut away, and everything employed as the means of cure served but to aggravate the disease. The masters of the healing art withdrew. Then famous physicians were brought in from all quarters; but no human means had any success… and the distemper augmented. Already approaching to its deadly crisis, it had occupied the lower regions of his body, his bowels came out; and his whole seat putrefied. The luckless physicians, although without hope of overcoming the malady, ceased not to apply fermentations and administer remedies. The humors having been repelled, the distemper attacked his intestines, and worms were generated in his body. The stench was so foul as to pervade not only the palace, but even the whole city; and no wonder, for by that time the passages from waste bladder and bowels, having been devoured by the worms, became indiscriminate, and his body, with intolerable anguish, was dissolved into one mass of corruption.”


  1. 128


… Already dying [Galerius] issued the following edict [ending persecution] ….

…. Lactantius cites the edict in full. The story has much in common with the account of the death of Antiochus, persecutor of the Jews in the Second Book of Maccabees. Lactantius must have been struck by the remarkable coincidences, and borrowed Antiochus’ worms and stench.



The plot now thickens, with the heretical Arius also dying a horrible (Antiochus-Galerius) type of death:


  1. 275


Under imperial instruction, Arius was to be marched into church and admitted into full communion, but he never made it. Tradition holds that he died on the way, a hideous death reminiscent of Galerius’, which in Lactantius’ account drew heavily upon the death of Antiochus, persecutor of the Jews in 2 Maccabees. ….


Part Two:

Constantine more like ‘Epiphanes’  

Some substantial aspects of the life of Constantine seem to have been lifted

right out of the era of king Antiochus IV ‘Epiphanes’ and the Maccabees.


As briefly noted in Part One:

Constantine’s victory over Maxentius is somewhat reminiscent of the victory over Nicanor by the superb Jewish general, Judas Maccabeus.

“And just as Judas Maccabeus is promised divine aid in a dream before his victory over Nicanor, so Constantine dreams that he will conquer his rival Maxentius”.


Other comparisons can be drawn as well.

For instance, Constantine’s army, too, was significantly outnumbered by that of his opponent.

Again, after Constantine’s victory the head of Maxentius was publicly paraded:

“His body was recovered, his head removed, then mounted on a lance and paraded triumphantly by Constantine’s men”.


Cf. 2 Maccabees 15:30-33):


Then Judas, that man who was ever in body and soul the chief defender of his fellow citizens, and had maintained from youth his affection for his compatriots, ordered Nicanor’s head and right arm up to the shoulder to be cut off and taken to Jerusalem. When he arrived there, he assembled his compatriots, stationed the priests before the altar, and sent for those in the citadel. He showed them the vile Nicanor’s head and the wretched blasphemer’s arm that had been boastfully stretched out against the holy dwelling of the Almighty. He cut out the tongue of the godless Nicanor, saying he would feed it piecemeal to the birds and would hang up the other wages of his folly opposite the temple.


Prior to his battle with Nicanor, Judas, according to 2 Maccabees (15:15-16), received from the deceased prophet Jeremiah, in “a dream, a kind of waking vision, worthy of belief” (v. 11), a golden sword.


Stretching out his right hand, Jeremiah presented a gold sword to Judas. As he gave it to him he said, ‘Accept this holy sword as a gift from God; with it you shall shatter your adversaries’.


Could this be the origin (in part) of the Excalibur (King Arthur) legends?

For Constantine apparently occupies a fair proportion of Arthurian legend according to:

Constantine the Great, who in AD 306 was proclaimed Roman emperor in York, forms 8% of Arthur’s story, whilst Magnus Maximus, a usurper from AD 383, completes a further 39%. Both men took troops from Britain to fight against the armies of Rome, Constantine defeating the emperor Maxentius; Maximus killing the emperor Gratian, before advancing to Italy. Both sequences are later duplicated in Arthur’s story.


In Part One I had likened somewhat the fourfold division of the empire of Alexander the Great and the tetrarchy of Constantine’s reign, including the case of the emperor Galerius with whom I had previously identified Antiochus IV ‘Epiphanes’:


King Herod ‘the Great’, Sulla, and Antiochus IV ‘Epiphanes’. Part Two: Add to the mix Gaius Maximianus Galerius

And, as I pointed out in the following article, historians can find it difficult to distinguish between the buildings of (the above-mentioned) Herod and those of Hadrian:


Herod and Hadrian


Of chronological ‘necessity’ they must assume that, as according to this article:

In the later Hadrianic period material from the earlier Herodian constructions was reused, resetting the distinctive “Herodian” blocks in new locations.


But, of further chronological ‘necessity’, historians must also assume that some of Hadrian’s architecture, for its part, was “recarved” and “recut”, to allow Constantine later to make use of it:

…. The first pair of roundels on the south side depicts Antinous, Hadrian, an attendant and a friend of the court (amicus principis) departing for the hunt (left tondo) and sacrificing to Silvanus,  the Roman god of the woods and wild (right tondo).


Tondi Adrianei on the Arch of Constantine, Southern side – left lateral, LEFT: Departure for the hunt, RIGHT: Sacrifice to Silvanus



The first pair of roundels on the south side depicts a bear hunt (left tondo) and a sacrifice to the goddess of hunting Diana (right tondo).




On the north side, the left pair depicts a boar hunt (left tondo) and a sacrifice to Apollo (right tondo). The figure on the top left of the boar hunt relief is clearly identified as Antinous while Hadrian, on horseback and about to strike the boar with a spear, was recarved to resemble the young Constantine. The recarved emperor in the sacrifice scene is likely to be Licinius or Constantius Chlorus.



Tondi Adrianei on the Arch of Constantine, Northern side – left lateral, LEFT: Boar hunt, RIGHT: Sacrifice to Apollo



On the north side, the right pair depicts a lion hunt (left tondo) and a sacrifice to Hercules (right tondo). The figure of Hadrian in the hunt scene was recut to resemble the young Constantine while in the sacrifice scene the recarved emperor is either Licinius or Constantius Chlorus. The figure on the left of the hunt tondo may show Antinous as he was shortly before his death; with the [first] signs of a beard, meaning he was no longer a young man. These tondi are framed in purple-red porphyry. This framing is only extant on this side of the northern facade. ….


Fred S. Kleiner (A History of Roman Art, p. 326, my emphasis) will go as far as to write that “every block of the arch [of Constantine] were [sic] reused from earlier buildings”:


The Arch of Constantine was the largest erected in Rome since the end of the Severan dynasty nearly a century before, but recent investigations have shown that the columns and every block of the arch were reused from earlier buildings. …. Although the figures on many of the stone blocks were newly carved for this arch, much of the sculptural decoration was taken from monuments of Trajan, Hadrian …. Sculptors refashioned the second-century reliefs to honor Constantine by recutting the heads of the earlier emperors with the features of the new ruler. ….


The highly paganised (Sol Invictus) polytheistic worshipping, family murdering, Constantine makes for – somewhat like Charlemagne – a very strange, exemplary Christian emperor.

And Constantine’s rushed ‘conversion’ during his Persian campaign, just before his death: “Since he was converted into Christianity later in his life, he was not baptized until a little time before his death. He died on May twenty second, A.D. 337 on the way to campaign against the Persians”, is something of a carbon copy of that of Antiochus ‘Epiphanes’, upon his flight from Persia, terminally ill. Besides all this, he would become a Jew himself and visit every inhabited place to proclaim there the power of God.

The whole account of it is vividly narrated in 2 Maccabees 9:1-29.